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Live-in Relationships and Constitutional morality

Introduction

Live-in relationships in the society of India today, we can observe transformations in personal relationships that have provoked numerous legal and moral debates. It is important to talk about live-in relationships where two people remain unmarried but choose to reside together. This aspect defies social norms and forces a rethinking regarding constitutional principles in India.

Live-in Relationships in India

Live-in relationships, though not explicitly codified in Indian statutory laws, have progressively garnered legal acknowledgment through judicial interpretation. These relationships are indicative of a shift towards self-determination and individual freedom that echo the broader ideals of modernization and globalization. Recognition of live-in relationships in India has come largely through the judiciary especially the Supreme Court which has played a significant role in affirming the legality as well as rights of those involved in such unions. Significant judicial pronouncements like Lata Singh vs. State of U.P.(2006) and S. Khushboo vs. Kanniammal&Anr.(2010) have declared that live-in relationships are not illegal by highlighting the right to life and personal liberty provided under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Constitutional Morality and Individual Rights

The sense of constitutionalism or constitutional morality is a condition of being self-disciplined by the basic principles entrenched in the Constitution, such as justice, freedom, impartiality, and fellowship. It stresses that all laws and customs should be consistent with constitutional values but not influenced by persisting social attitudes. This concept took root with the landmark judgment in Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India (2018). The importance of giving precedence to constitutional morality over social norms was brought to light through the judgment by the Supreme Court on consenting homosexuality cases as illustrated above. The Indian Constitution, with its foundational principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity, provides a framework to understand and evaluate the morality of live-in relationships.

The concept of constitutional morality plays a crucial role in defending live-in relationships in India. It emphasizes that individual rights and freedoms, as enshrined in the Constitution, should prevail over conservative social norms. Key aspects include:

1. Personal Autonomy:
– The Constitution guarantees individuals the right to personal liberty and privacy. The judiciary has upheld these rights, ensuring that consensual relationships between adults are respected and protected.

2. Equality and Non-Discrimination:
– Article 14 of the Constitution ensures equality before the law. Legal recognition of live-in relationships promotes non-discrimination and equal treatment of individuals regardless of their marital status.

3. Right to Privacy:
– The landmark judgment in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India(2017) underscored the right to privacy as a fundamental right. This judgment supports the notion that intimate personal choices, including live-in relationships, are protected under the right to privacy

 Judicial Recognition and Interpretation

The judiciary in India has progressively interpreted the Constitution to recognize and protect the rights of individuals in live-in relationships. Key judgments have underscored that such relationships are not illegal and are a manifestation of the right to personal liberty and privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

1. Justice:

– Legal Protection: The judiciary has provided legal protection to partners in live-in relationships, ensuring they are not subjected to unfair treatment. For instance, in *D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal* (2010), the Supreme Court held that a live-in relationship could be recognized as a relationship in the nature of marriage, granting partners certain legal rights.

– Domestic Violence Act: The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, extends protection to women in live-in relationships, recognizing their right to live free from violence and abuse.

2. Liberty:

– Personal Autonomy: The Supreme Court has upheld the right of individuals to make personal choices, including the decision to enter into a live-in relationship. In S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Anr. (2010), the Court affirmed that living together without marriage is a part of the right to life and personal liberty.

– Privacy: The landmark judgment in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India (2017) reinforced the right to privacy, which extends to intimate personal decisions, including the choice to live with a partner outside marriage.

3. Equality:

– Non-Discrimination: Constitutional morality demands equality and non-discrimination. The recognition of live-in relationships ensures that individuals are not discriminated against based on their personal choices. This aligns with Article 14, which guarantees equality before the law.

– Gender Equality: Ensuring that women in live-in relationships have legal protections and rights helps in promoting gender equality. The acknowledgment of such relationships counters societal biases that often stigmatize women more than men.

4. Fraternity:

-Dignity and Respect: Constitutional morality emphasizes the dignity of the individual. By recognizing live-in relationships, the judiciary ensures that individuals in such relationships are treated with respect and dignity, reflecting the value of fraternity.

– Inclusive Society: Acceptance and legal recognition of diverse forms of relationships contribute to a more inclusive society, where individuals are free to live according to their personal choices without fear of social ostracism.

While live-in relationships are not explicitly covered under Indian statutory law, various judicial pronouncements have acknowledged their existence and legality. Key judicial interpretations include:

1. Right to Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21):
S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Anr. (2010): The Supreme Court ruled that living together without marriage falls within the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court emphasized that an adult couple’s decision to live together cannot be construed as illegal.

2. Protection under Domestic Violence Act, 2005:
D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal (2010): The Supreme Court recognized that a live-in relationship akin to marriage could be covered under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This landmark judgment provided women in such relationships the right to seek protection and relief under the Act.

3. Inheritance and Maintenance Rights:
Tulsa & Ors v. Durghatiya & Ors (2008): The Supreme Court held that children born out of live-in relationships are entitled to inheritance rights, ensuring they are not discriminated against.

 Constitutional Morality vs. Societal Morality

The term “constitutional morality” denotes the fundamental principles and values outlined in a nation’s constitution, often leading to clashes with “societal morality,” which is influenced by traditional and cultural norms. Specifically in the context of live-in relationships, societal morality may be associated with disapproval, while constitutional morality emphasizes the protection of individual rights and freedoms. The Indian judiciary has significantly contributed to ensuring that constitutional principles prevail over outdated social norms, thus safeguarding the rights of individuals who choose to engage in live-in relationships.

Social and Moral Dimensions- Live-in relationships often clash with traditional Indian societal norms that place a high value on marriage. Despite legal recognition, social acceptance remains limited, particularly in rural and conservative communities. However, urban areas and younger generations are increasingly open to the concept, reflecting a shift towards modernity and individual autonomy.

1. Changing Attitudes:
– Urbanization, education, and exposure to global cultures have contributed to changing attitudes towards live-in relationships. More young couples, especially in metropolitan cities, view live-in relationships as a step towards understanding compatibility before marriage.

2. Cultural Resistance:
– Traditional views on marriage and family structures often lead to social stigma and moral policing of couples in live-in relationships. This resistance stems from deeply rooted cultural and religious beliefs that prioritize marriage as a sacred institution.

3. Gender Dynamics:
– Women in live-in relationships often face greater societal scrutiny and judgment compared to men. Legal protections aim to address some of these gender-based disparities, but societal attitudes can still be harsh.

The Intersection of Live-in Relationships and Constitutional Morality

The recognition of live-in relationships through the lens of constitutional morality underscores the judiciary’s role in safeguarding individual rights against societal prejudices. By upholding the right to choose one’s partner and cohabit without marriage, the judiciary reinforces the constitutional mandate of personal liberty and privacy. This intersection challenges traditional views and promotes a more inclusive understanding of relationships, respecting individual choices and freedoms.

Conclusion

Live-in relationships in India, underpinned by the principles of constitutional morality, highlight the progressive interpretation of personal liberty and autonomy. The judiciary’s stance on this matter exemplifies the dynamic nature of constitutional values, evolving to accommodate changing societal norms while steadfastly protecting individual rights. As India navigates the complexities of modern relationships, the balance between societal norms and constitutional morality remains pivotal in shaping a just and equitable society.

The morality of live-in relationships under the Indian Constitution is framed by the principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. Through judicial interpretations and legal protections, the Indian legal system recognizes the validity of live-in relationships, ensuring that constitutional morality guides the treatment and rights of individuals in such relationships. This approach not only upholds the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution but also promotes a more progressive and inclusive society.

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Shreya Sharma
Shreya Sharma
As a passionate legal student , I am thrilled to embark on a promising internship in the realm of law articles. Through my writing, I am determined to unravel the intricate complexities of the legal world and make a meaningful impact. This is my opportunity to combine theory and practice, and I am ready to take on the challenge with enthusiasm and dedication.
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