Verdict timely, now enact it
The Supreme Court’s observation, saying that a live-in relationship is neither a crime, nor a sin is a welcome development and a timely intervention that is bound to have long-term significance. Justly enough, the apex court has put it out in the open that cohabitation involving a non-marital sexual relation will not be deemed inappropriate in the eyes of law. Its advice to Parliament to draft legislation to the effect and frame laws for protection of women in such relationships and the children born thereof is equally commendable. Civil partnerships and other kinds of non-marital relationships have been traditionally looked down upon in our still rather conservative sociocultural set up, even though they are becoming common urban phenomena, particularly in the sprawling and cosmopolitan cities. Unfortunately, as of now, there is no express statutory provision to regulate live-in relationships, since upon termination, because they do not have the same legal recognition as marriage, there is nothing to safeguard the interests of the aggrieved party, usually the women and the children born out of wedlock. The landmark judgment, by the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan, has therefore brought to fore the much neglected question of the rights of the civil partner in case of the relationship not culminating in marriage.
Moreover, the apex court’s underlining of the fact that civil partnerships and live-in relationships should come under the purview of Domestic Violence Act to ensure greater protection of women in these set ups, is also extremely sagacious. As the bench has opined, ‘Parliament has to ponder over these issues, bring in proper legislation or make a proper amendment of the Act, so that the women and the children, born out of such kinds of relationships be protected, though those types of relationship might not be in the nature of a marriage.’ This highlights the prevalence of non-marital sexual relationships that result in cohabitation and child-bearing.