Live-in Couples Deserve Equal Protections: Punjab and Haryana High Court

last week, two other benches of the same high court frowned upon live-in couples.

New Delhi: The Punjab and Haryana high court has granted protection to a live-in couple – after last week, two other benches of the same high court frowned upon the concept.

Justice Sudhir Mittal held that adults have the right to choose their own partners, and families should not intervene in that decision against the person’s will. “The individual also has the right to formalize the relationship with the partner through marriage or to adopt the non-formal approach of a live-in relationship,” he continued, according to Bar and Bench.

The petitioners approached the court after the family of one individuals involved disagreed with the relationship and reportedly threatened physical harm, The couple first made a representation to the police, but reportedly got no response.

Justice Mittal argued that live-in relationships are becoming more and more popular in India, even outside of big cities. Such relationships are not prohibited in law, and thus, persons who enter into such relationships are entitled to equal protection of laws, he argued.

Live-in relationships are akin to marriages against parental wishes, where too the couple often needs protection, the judge said. “The only difference is that the relationship is not universally accepted. Would that make any difference? In my considered opinion, it would not. The couple fears for their safety from relatives in both situations and not from the society. They are thus, entitled to the same relief. No citizen can be permitted to take law in his own hands in a country governed by Rule of Law.”

Justice Mittal’s decision is in contrast with two other orders passed by the Punjab and Haryana high court last week, in which it refused protection to live-in couples. On May 11, Justice H.S. Madaan even described such relationships as “morally and socially unacceptable”.

On May 12, Justice Anil Kshetarpal refused protection to a live-in couple, saying, “In the considered view of this bench, if such protection as claimed is granted, the entire social fabric of the society would get disturbed. Hence, no ground to grant the protection is made out.”

A The Wire reported then, this may have gone against the Supreme Court’s judgment in Shakti Vahini v Union of India and others, which said that “assertion of choice is an insegregable facet of liberty and dignity”.