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Written by: Smita Pandey (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

On June 21, 2021, a single bench of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, presided over by Justice Rajesh Bhardwaj, awarded protection to a young unmarried couple who were living together against their family’s wishes in a case involving live-in relationships.

“While live-in relationships are not a new phenomenon in today’s society, society has not matured to the point where it accepts such relationships without raising eyebrows,” the Punjab and Haryana High Court observed while providing protection to a couple in a live-in relationship.

In the past, the Supreme Court and many other High Courts have issued decisions recognizing a live-in relationship. In Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan, the Allahabad High Court confirmed the concept of a live-in relationship, saying, “In our opinion, a man and a woman can live together even without getting married if they choose.” Although society may consider something to be immoral, it is not unlawful. There’s a distinction to be made between the law and morality. “The Supreme Court of India concluded in the landmark case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal that a living connection falls under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution’s right to life. The Court went on to say that live-in relationships are legal and that the act of two adults living together is not illegal or criminal.

In the present case of Sanjay and others v. State of Haryana and others, a single bench led by Justice Rajesh Bhardwaj was hearing a protection petition brought by an 18-year-old boy and a 19-year-old girl who met on the social media site Facebook and intended to marry. The High Court stated, “It is clear that both petitioners are beyond the age of 18, but the boy is not yet of marriageable age. The live-in relationship is not a new phenomenon nowadays, but society has not progressed to the point where it accepts such relationships without raising eyebrows.”

In addition, it stated: “Thus, the Hon’ble Apex Court, as well as numerous other High Courts, have repeatedly recognized the live-in-relationship and have come to the couple’s rescue as established in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Though the petitioners’ main concern in the petition is their live-in relationship and their fundamental right to life and liberty as contained in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Court is only concerned with their right under Article 21.”

The petitioner claimed that they are in a live-in relationship and plan to marry when they reach marriageable age. The girl’s parents allegedly intended to marry her to another male, which she refused. She tried to persuade her family members to change their minds, but they refused. The petitioners had no choice but to live together in a live-in relationship, since they had no other option. They went to the Superintendent of Police (SP), Mahendergarh, since they were under threat from their dissenting relatives, but no action was taken. They addressed the High Court because they had no other option.

The High Court, relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Nandakumar and others vs. The State of Kerala and others, where the Court stated that a “live-in relationship” is recognized by the legislature under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, issued the following order; “there is no reason not to address the petitioners’ concerns about the same”.

As a result, the Superintendent of Police, Mahendergarh, is directed to consider the petitioners’ contentions in the representation and assess the petitioners’ threat perception, if any.

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