Kerala High Court declared adults in live-in relationships cannot be separated by writs

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Kerala High Court in its judgment gave validity to live-in relationships when it decided that couples who have attained majority cannot be separated from each other through the use of writs just because they are in a live-in relationship. The changing Indian society is always reflected in the landmark verdicts decided on our courts.

Facts of the case

A distraught father resident of Alappuzha district, Kerala had filed a habeas corpus writ petition against an 18-year-old young Muslim man from the same locality stating that the man had taken illegal custody of his 19-year-old daughter. The couple was in a live-in relationship for quite some time against the wishes of the girl’s father. The father also alleged that as per the provisions of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, for marriage between a man and a woman to happen, the man must be 21 years old and the woman 18 years old which is not the case in this instance.

‘Live-in relationship’ means those relationships where there is no marriage between the parties, in the sense of solemnization of a marriage under any law. Yet the parties live as a couple, represent to the world that they are a couple and there are stability and continuity in the relationship. Such a relationship is also known as a ‘common law marriage’. (Also read: D  Veluswamy  Vs  D Patchaiammal).

The law do not specifically accept live-in relationships but Section 2(f) of the Protection   of   Women   from Domestic  Violence  Act,  2005 states – “domestic   relationship”   means  a relationship  between  two  persons  who live  or  have,  at  any  point  of  time,  lived together  in  a  shared  household,  when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.

Court ruling

The case was heard by the Honourable Justices V Chitambaresh and K P Jyothindranath Division Bench of Kerala High Court who dismissed the habeas corpus petition. The judges placed reliance on the recent Supreme Court judgment in the case of Nandakumar & ANR. Vs. State of Kerala & Ors where the Apex Court had declared the Kerala High Court verdict to be “erroneously guided” and had set aside the lower court’s decision. The Supreme Court in its judgment had categorically stated that the couple Nandakumar and Thushara were both adults in a relationship.

The Supreme Court observed that since “Thushara is admittedly a major i.e., more than 18 years of age, she has right to live wherever she wants to or move as per her choice. As she is not a minor daughter of respondent No. 4, “custody” of Thushara could not be I to him.” Also, the Court mentioned that even if, Nandakumar is not 21 years old at the time of their marriage, the said marriage cannot be considered “null and void. Such a marriage is not a void marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and as per the provisions of section 12.”

Impact of the judgment

Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court stated, “it cannot close its eyes to the fact that live-in relationships have become rampant in society and such partners cannot be separated by the writ of habeas corpus.” The Court, thus, allowed the Muslim couple to be in this live-in relationship dismissing the habeas corpus petition of the girl’s father.

The Supreme Court had always been a pioneer in ushering and accepting changes both within the society and the dynamics of our legal system. The nuances in relationships which cannot be defined by the guiding principles of the law were always decided upon at the altar of the Supreme Court, and in this instance, Kerala High Court.

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