Live-in relationships not prohibited; such persons are entitled to equal protection of laws: Punjab & Haryana High Court
20 May 2021
A week after two Punjab & Haryana High Court benches disapproved of live-in partnerships, a third panel awarded protection to a couple who had engaged into one (Pardeep Singh and Anr v. State of Haryana). Justice Sudhir Mittal opined in his order that an individual's right to life and liberty under the Indian Constitution includes the right to full development of his or her potential in line with his or her choice, and that he or she is entitled to pick a partner of his or her choice for that reason. He went on to say, "The individual also has the right to legalize the relationship with the partner through marriage or to embrace the non-formal approach of a live-in relationship." After receiving no response to a complaint filed with the police on May 9, the petitioners turned to the High Court. They claimed in front of the High Court that they were both adults who had opted to enter such a relationship because they were certain of their affections for each other. According to the Court, one of the applicants' family members was opposed to the connection and threatened to attack the pair physically. The Court highlighted in its decision that live-in relationships are becoming more popular, and that the trend has spread to small towns and villages. Such partnerships are not banned by law, and hence, those who enter into them are entitled to equal protection under the law, according to Justice Mittal. The Court noted parallels between live-in partnerships and cases in which courts safeguard couples who marry against their parents' wishes, saying that "Only this time, the relationship isn't universally accepted. Is that going to make a difference? That, in my judgement, would not be the case. In both circumstances, the couple fears for their safety from family rather than society. As a result, they are entitled to the same relief. In a country governed by the Rule of Law, no citizen can take the law into his own hands."
With these remarks, the Court directed the authorities to ensure that the petitioners' life and liberty were not jeopardized. Live-in relationships were deemed ethically and socially undesirable by a bench of Justice HS Madaan on May 11. A similar appeal was denied the next day by Justice Anil Kshetarpal, who stated that granting protection to the couple would disrupt the social fabric of the country.