Punjab and Haryana High Court: ‘Live-in-relationships’ has always been a debatable issue because of the absence of any law on the said practice. The Legislation has not yet consolidated any Act in this regard; on the other hand the Judiciary, through several decisions has made a clear stand to protect the various rights of such couples. Supreme Court in Lata Singh v. State of U.P., (2006) 5 SCC 475, S. Khushbhoo v. Kanniammal, (2010) 5 SCC 600, and Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, (2013) 15 SCC 755, has upheld the status of live-in-relationships and issued certain direction to protect life and liberty of the individuals.
Yet once again a similar situation has been placed before Anmol Rattan Singh, J., where the petitioners have sought protection of life and liberty upon them being in live-in relationships with each other. The main concern of the Court was, as there is no law on live-in-relationships, a number of adolescents are coming to the judiciary for the protection of their life and liberty. The courts are bound to grant protection in such cases if the parties have attained the age of majority.
CRWP 8809 of 2021: The petitioners referred to an earlier order of the court, in one such petition, the girl was cohabiting with the boy when she was allegedly taken away from the custody of the boy by the family, it was contended that the girl has attained majority and has a right to decide where she wants to live. The court had held that there was no firm proof submitted regarding the age of the parties. However, it was directed that the girl will be taken to the Magistrate for recording of her statement and no related party will accompany her. Further, it was directed that she would also take with her documentary proof of her age; and if the Magistrate finds that she is, as per said documentary proof, below the age of 18 years, even if then she expresses her wish to reside with the petitioner, she would be returned to the custody of her parents, and if she is above the age of 18 years and states that she wishes to reside with the petitioner, then a report in that regard would be made to this court. The petitioner requested to withdraw the case as they don’t want to live together for now.
CRWP 941 of 2022: In another petition, it was alleged that the age of the petitioners were 24 (woman) and 20 (man) respectively and, the woman was married to the respondent. The Court observed that, “Though petitioner No.2 is not of marriageable age in terms of the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 as also the provisions of the Child Marriage Act, 2006, yet, firstly of course this being a petition seeking protection of life and liberty which is a basic fundamental right enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and secondly, Section 497 of the IPC has been struck down as being unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.” Hence, the Court directed protection of life and liberty to the petitioners.
Mr. Satya Pal Jain, Addl. Solicitor General of India, informed the court that as per his instructions an amendment to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, has been proposed, with a Bill already produced in Parliament for that purpose, to bring the marriageable age for females also upto 21 years of age (from 18 years), to bring them on par with males. Notably, no bill in regarding live-in-relationship has been introduced so far.
Hence, Court while disposing of the petition stated that if the petitioners perceived any threat in future, they would approach the SSP, Rural Amritsar, who would ensure that their lives and liberty are duly protected, as per law.[Rohit Kumar v. UT of Chandigarh, CRWP-8809 of 2021, decided on 07-03-2022]
Mr. Vinod K. Kanwal, Advocate, for the petitioner in CRWP-8809 of 2021
Mr. Varinder Basa, Advocate, for the petitioners in CRWP-941 of 2022
Mr. Satya Pal Jain, Addl. Solicitor General of India
Ms. Saigeeta Srivastava, Central Govt. Counsel for Union of India
Ms. Vasundhara Dalal, Addl. P.P., U.T. Chandigarh.
Mr. Neeraj Poswal, AAG, Haryana
Mr. Rana Harjasdeep Singh, DAG, Punjab
Ms. Naveen Malik, Advocate, for respondent no.5 in CRWP-8809 of 2021