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Chandigarh/New Delhi: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has said live-in-relationships are morally and socially unacceptable, an observation which runs contrary to the Supreme Court stand recognising them.

The High Court made the observation while dismissing a petition filed by a runaway couple seeking protection.

In their petition, Gulza Kumari (19) and Gurwinder Singh (22) said they were living together and intended to get married shortly. They apprehended danger to their lives from Kumari’s parents.

In his May 11 order, Justice H S 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, his order said.

According to petitioners’ counsel J S Thakur, Singh and Kumari were living together in Tarn Taran district. The woman’s parents in Ludhiana did not approve of their relationship.

The couple could not get married as Kumari’s documents, which have details of her age, were in the possession of her family, Thakur added.

The Supreme Court has taken a different view on the issue in the past.

A three-judge bench of the apex court held in May 2018 that an adult couple had the right to live together even without marriage.

It had made this clear while asserting that a 20-year-old Kerala woman, whose marriage had been annulled, could choose whom she wanted to live with.

The top court had held that live-in-relationships were now even recognized by the legislature and they had found a place under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

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

While it is true that the mainstream view in our society is that sexual contact should take place only between marital partners, there is no statutory offence that takes place when adults willingly engage in sexual relations outside the marital setting, with the exception of `adultery’ as defined under Section 497 IPC, it said.

The apex court had also referred to its decision in Lata Singh vs State of UP.

That judgment had said a live-in relationship between two consenting adults did not amount to any offence, with the obvious exception of adultery, even though it may be perceived as immoral. A major girl is free to marry anyone she likes or “live with anyone she likes”.

Notions of social morality are inherently subjective and the criminal law cannot be used as a means to unduly interfere with the domain of personal autonomy. Morality and criminality are not co-extensive, the court said.

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.

Long-standing relationship as a concubine, though not a relationship in the nature of a marriage, of course, may at times, deserve protection because that woman might not be financially independent, it added.

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