Legal Advice

wife can claim maintenance if she is living in live-in relationship

Question: Is a wife residing with a man as a partner in a live-in relationship entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C).

Advise

No, a wife cannot claim maintenance if she is cohabiting with a man in a live-in relationship. In legal terms, a live-in relationship is considered akin to marriage. Consequently, the husband of a woman in such a relationship is not obligated to provide maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C).

Section 125 of the Cr.P.C explicitly outlines that a wife is eligible to receive maintenance from her husband if she is incapable of supporting herself. Sub-section 4 of this section further stipulates that a wife cannot receive an allowance from her husband under this provision if:

  1. She is engaged in an adulterous relationship, or
  2. Without a valid and justifiable reason, she refuses to live with her husband.

In cases where a wife is residing with her partner in a live-in relationship, it is assumed that a sexual relationship exists. Upon establishing the existence of a live-in relationship, the court presumes that the wife is living in adultery, and consequently, she is regarded as having willingly abandoned her husband.

In both of these scenarios, the wife is not entitled to seek maintenance under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C. To be relieved of the obligation to provide maintenance, the husband must demonstrate the existence of a live-in relationship.

Legal acceptance of live-in relationship

A live-in relationship, also known as cohabitation, refers to a situation where an unmarried couple lives together in a domestic partnership, often in a manner that resembles a married couple’s lifestyle. These couples choose to live together and share their lives without undergoing a formal marriage ceremony. Live-in relationships can be based on mutual love, companionship, or any other personal reasons.

In India, the legal acceptance of live-in relationships has evolved over the years. While there is no specific legislation that comprehensively addresses live-in relationships, several legal judgments and developments have provided some recognition and protection for couples in such relationships:

  1. Supreme Court of India: The Supreme Court of India has, in various judgments, recognized live-in relationships as valid. In a landmark case (Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V. Sarma, 2013), the court held that living together without formal marriage is not illegal and does not amount to an offense.
  2. Protection of Women: The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, offers protection to women in live-in relationships by defining them as “aggrieved persons.” This law allows women in such relationships to seek legal remedies against domestic violence.
  3. Maintenance for Partners: Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C) allows a woman in a live-in relationship to claim maintenance if she can prove that she is living with a man as his wife in a manner akin to a marriage. But a married woman living in live-in relationship, cannot claim maintenance.
  4. Children’s Rights: The legitimacy of children born in live-in relationships is recognized, and they are entitled to the same rights and privileges as children born to married parents.
  5. Property Rights: Courts have, in some cases, granted women in live-in relationships the right to claim a share of the partner’s property, especially if they have cohabited for an extended period and acquired property jointly.

While the legal environment has become more accepting of live-in relationships, challenges and ambiguities may still arise, particularly in cases involving property disputes, inheritance, and other legal matters.

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow