Supreme Court of India re-iterates that Live-in Relationship is not a Crime–
The Supreme Court of India observed that ‘Live-in Relationships’ does not amount to a crime as the society has accepted it be normal and an acceptable norm. According to a bench comprising Justices Dipak Mishra and Prafulla C Pant, “Being in live-in relationship is not a crime and with changing time it has become a norm accepted by society”.
Back in September 2013, the Supreme Court had similarly observed that Live-in relationship is neither a crime nor a sin.
Further, the Court had even asked the Parliament to formulate a legal framework to recognise such relationships and to give protection to women in such relationship and children born out of it.
The Bench made this observation while hearing a batch of petitions including the one filed by Mr. Subramanian Swamy challenging the constitutional validity of defamation laws under the Indian Penal Code, 1861. During the course of the hearing, the Bench raised a question whether exposing a public personality’s Live-in relationship can be termed as defamation.
Appearing for the Central Government, Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi argued that the personal life of a public figure cannot be looked into by the public as it would in no manner serve public interest. According to the AG, “Then how is public concerned and what business they have to make adverse comments about it”. He stated that such personal issues cannot and should not be made part of the public debate.
The AG vehemently argued that decriminalising defamation would lead to ‘anarchy’ and stated that freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution does not mean that any one can say anything about others.
It was in Indira Sarma vs V.K.V.Sarma Supreme Court held that though socially unacceptable in this country, a live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin and it is an extremely personal decision to marry or not to marry, or to have a heterosexual relationship and therefore the court felt that there was a need for a legislation as it was the woman who invariably suffers because of the breakdown of such a relationship. The apex court bench also gave examples of various countries that had started recognizing such relationships. It said the Parliament should give this issue a serious consideration and bring in proper legislation or make a proper amendment to the Act, so that women and the children born out of such kinds of relationships can be protected, though such a relationship might not be a relationship in the nature of a marriage.
“In modern times, live-in relationship has become an acceptable norm. It is not a crime,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant observed.
Harish V Nair New Delhi, Friday, July 24, 2015
In a major psychological boost to couples in live-in relationships, the Supreme Court for the first time on Thursday removed the stigma from such liaisons, saying it has now become an accepted norm in society. “In modern times, live-in relationship has become an acceptable norm. It is not a crime,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant observed.
Though the apex court has twice earlier ruled that live-in relationship is not a crime, it is for the first time that it has acknowledged that with passing time, the society has accepted it and the relation does not attract any penal action. The judges made the remark during a discussion in the court on whether exposing a public figure’s live-in relationship would amount to defamation.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi replied that public should not look into the personal life of a public figure, as is being increasingly witnessed, and it serves no public interest. But the most interesting aspect is that the significant observation came during the hearing of petitions filed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who wants the Supreme Court to decriminalise the offence of defamation.
Opposing the petition seeking quashing of criminal defamation law, Rohatgi submitted that doing away with the law would bring anarchy into the society. He also stated that the reach of the social media made it all the more important that there should be criminal punishment for defamation. “In the 1950s, a maligning word could be carried to only five people in a group; now it reaches lakhs (of people) within minutes through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, it is necessary to keep criminal punishment intact for defamation,” Rohatgi said.
Gandhi has been booked in a criminal defamation case in a Bhiwandi court in Thane district of Maharashtra for allegedly blaming Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. He made the comments while campaigning during the general elections last year.
Kejriwal is facing prosecution after being summoned as an accused under Sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) on a complaint lodged by Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari. Gadkari has alleged that he was defamed by Kejriwal by including his name in the party’s list of “India’s most corrupt”. The trial is pending and the Union minister has partly recorded his statement in the case.
The other defamation case, in which the trial was stayed on Thursday, had been lodged against Kejriwal at Karkardooma trial court by Sheila Dikshit’s former political secretary Pawan Khera in 2013 for his alleged remarks against the former chief minister during protests over power tariff hike in October 2012.
Swamy is facing four defamation cases filed by bete noire Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for a host of “offensive” comments he allegedly made against her. The trial against Gandhi, Kejriwal and Swamy has already been stayed by the apex court.
In its judgment of November 28, 2013, the Supreme Court had asked Parliament to frame a law for the protection of women in live-in relationships and children born out of it.
On April 13, 2015, the court had ruled that if an unmarried couple is living together as husband and wife, they would be presumed to be legally married and the woman would be eligible to inherit property after the death of her partner.
Apex court shows the way
-> The Supreme Court observation on Thursday is significant as on March 8, 2015 the Delhi High Court had refused to keep live-in relationships outside the purview of rape under the IPC. The high court had said that doing so would amount to giving them the status of matrimony, which the legislature has chosen “not to do”.
-> In a judgment on November 28, 2013, the apex court had asked Parliament to frame a law for the protection of women in such relationships and the children born out of it.
-> More lately on April 13, 2015, the SC had ruled that if an unmarried couple is living together as husband and wife, then they would be presumed to be legally married and the woman would be eligible to inherit the property after the death of her partner.