Bizarre HC order on live-in relationships contrasts landmark SC judgements

"Live-in-relationships are morally and socially unacceptable" observed the Punjab and Haryana High court, while dismissing a petition filed by a runaway couple, seeking protection.

A petition was filed by Gulza Kumari (19) and Gurwinder Singh (22), wherein they apprehended danger to their lives from Kumari’s parents, because they didn’t approve of their relationship. In the petition, the couple has said that they were living together and intended to get married shortly. 

In the order given on 11 May, Justice HS Madaan said, “As a matter of fact, the petitioners in the garb of filing the present petition are seeking seal of approval on their live-in-relationship, which is morally and socially not acceptable and no protection order in the petition can be passed. The petition stands dismissed accordingly.”

The petitioners’ counsel, advocate JS Thakur said that the girl was 19-years-old and the boy was 22-years-old – both were legal to marry and wanted to do the same, but couldn’t execute the same because Kumari’s documents, which have details of her age, were in the possession of her family.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court has had different views on the issue than that of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In 2018, a three judge bench of the apex court ruled in favour of an adult couple’s right to live together even without marriage, making it clear that the 20 year old woman from Kerala, whose marriage had been annulled, could choose whom she wanted to live with.

The apex court recognised the live-in relationships under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which defines a domestic relationship as “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.”

The same judgement by the Supreme Court was picked by Advocate Thakur and he said that since the judgement of the SC in 2018 had already upheld the live-in relationships, they decided to approach the HC, seeking protection until marriage.

In fact, the history of the Supreme Court upholding the right of an adult couple to live together even without marriage, dates back to a long time ago.

Back in 2013, the top court in Indra Sarma vs V K V Sarma said, “Live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country.”

In another case filed by actor S Khushboo, the Supreme Court had clearly said that live-in relationships are permissible and the act of two adults living together cannot be considered illegal or unlawful.

In fact, the Punjab and Haryana High Court itself noted last year that, “It is not for this Court in a protection petition to engage itself in social mores, norms and human behaviour or introduce personal ideas on morality.”

In any case, the petition filed by Gulza and Gurwinder asking for protection until marriage stands dismissed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and these orders only take a step back from the recent progressive jurisprudence of the Indian judiciary.

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