'Women in Live-in Are Like Concubines'? Justice Sharma, SC Differs

“Women in such relationships are akin to concubines,” said Justice (Retd) Sharma. But the Supreme Court has differed

3 min read

Here’s what happened:

A bench of the Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission – comprising Justice Prakash Tatia and Justice (Retired) Mahesh Chandra Sharma, who is the chief of Rajasthan Human Rights commission – sent a recommendation letter to the chief secretary and the additional chief secretary (Home Department), urging the state to enact a law and also request the Centre to follow suit.

What is the law they want enacted?

One that bans live-in relationships so that women, apparently, can live without that horror to their dignity.

To be a little more specific, Justice (Retd.) Mahesh Chandra Sharma said, “Live-in relationships should be prohibited....”, as “Women in such relationships are akin to concubines...” and that such “animalistic lives are against the basic rights enshrined in constitution and against their (women’s) human rights”.

It should probably be noted at this stage that Justice (Retd) Sharma is also the same individual who – two years ago – spouted that incredible gem: “The peacock is a brahmachari. It never has sex. The peahen gets pregnant after swallowing the tears of the peacock.”

That’s right.

Well, Justice (Retd) Sharma is operating on the misconception that he’s speaking for all women – but sir, the relationship a woman chooses to be in is HER prerogative. Her agency decides and determines the nature of relationship SHE chooses.

In fact, India’s highest court has celebrated and/or upheld that very agency several times. Here are some examples:


What the Supreme Court Has Said on Live-in Relationships

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 acknowledged live-in relationships by giving rights and protections to those women who aren't legally married but live with a male individual in a relationship – where the relationship is similar to marriage – as akin to wife, though not entirely equivalent to a wife.

Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code – which seeks to redress any destitution of a wife/minor children/old parents by imposing an obligation of financial maintenance – now also covers women who’ve been in live-in relationships.

In Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant in 2010, the Supreme Court held that, a live-in relationship that has continued for a long time cannot be termed as a “walk-in and walk-out” relationship, and that there is a presumption of marriage between the parties.

In fact, when a high court in 2011 declared that a woman was not entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC on the grounds that there had been no legally binding marriage between her and the man in question, the Supreme Court overturned the judgment of the high court and awarded maintenance to the her.

In 2011, a Special Bench of the SC, during a ruling, also stated that children born out of live-in relationships were "entitled to all the rights and privileges available to children born out of valid marriages".


None of these judgments would be possible if the law of the land saw women to be victims in live-in relationships and failed to accord them their agency. The Supreme Court does not view live-in relationships through the same regressive lens that the Rajasthan Human Rights Commission does, and recognises instead that these relationships should be treated with respect.

With that in mind, do you still think Justice (Retd) Sharma’s and his colleague's comments deserve the time of day?

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