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Make law to protect women, kids in live-in homes: Supreme Court

Emphasising that a live-in relationship is “neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country”, the Supreme Court has urged Parliament to consider framing comprehensive legislation to protect the interests of women and children in such relationships.

A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and P C Ghose, while making it clear that all live-in relationships — and especially polygamous relationships — would not come under the definition of a relationship in the nature of a marriage, pointed out that the increasing number of such relationships called for attention from lawmakers.

“Such relationship, it may be noted, may endure for a long time, and can result in a pattern of dependency and vulnerability, and increasing number of such relationships calls for adequate and effective protection, especially to the woman and children born out of that live-in-relationship. Legislature, of course, cannot promote pre-marital sex, though, at times, such relationships are intensely personal and people may express their opinion, for and against,” the court said.

The court underscored that several live-in relationships fell outside the purview of the Domestic Violence Act, and women and children were deprived of benefits like alimony and shelter both because of the legal vacuum and the deficiencies in the law.

“Parliament should ponder over bringing in a proper legislation or make amendments to the Act so that women and the children born out of such kinds of relationships be protected, though those types of relationship might not be a relationship in the nature of a marriage,” it said.

The bench also laid down certain broad parameters to indicate the kind of live-in relationship that would fall within the expression of “relationship in the nature of marriage” under the Act.

Some of the guiding factors would be the duration of the relationship, a shared household, pooling of resources and financial arrangements, domestic arrangements, and a sexual relationship — not just for pleasure, but an emotional and intimate relationship, and for procreation, it said.

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