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Why Punjab & Haryana HC’s New Ruling On Live-In Relationships Is A Ray Of Hope

Posted: December 30, 2020
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Punjab and Haryana HC’s latest ruling gives two consenting adults the right to live-in without any interference. Finally, some good news?

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, a bench headed by Justice Alka Sarin gave a monumental ruling earlier this week. The ruling states that the right of two adults living together cannot be denied even if the man hasn’t reached the legal age of marriage which is 21 years.

This ruling comes after a couple who have been living together filed a petition stating their right to life and personal liberty is being threatened by their families. The woman who is 19-years-old and the man who is 20 told the Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) that they wished to get married.

However, when the woman’s family found out about the relationship, she was harassed by the family and later even confined to her room. Soon after this, on December 20th, the woman left her house and has been living in with the man since.

“They are majors and have the right to live life on their own terms”

The court contended since both the man and woman are adults, they have the right to make decisions for themselves and live life on their own terms.

Particularly emphasising on the woman’s right to life, the Court said, “She is well within her right to decide for herself what is good and what is not. She has decided to be in a live-in relationship with petitioner no.2 who is also major, though may not be of marriageable age. Be that as it may, both the petitioners in the present case are major and have the right to live life on their own terms.”

Meanwhile, it is also important to highlight a similar ruling given by the Allahabad High Court on December 3rd. The ruling states, ‘where a boy and a girl are major and they are living with their free will, then nobody including their parents has the authority to interfere with their living together.”

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 has set the age of consent for a girl at 18 years and it has remained the same since then. In this particular case, both the individuals have attained a valid and legal age, thus have the full authority to live together.

Rulings like these are a sign that we are moving forward

It is often our society’s inability to adapt to the fact that women can take full authority of their lives and make decisions as legal adults that culminates into cases like these. Ones where women are forced to move to a court in order to protect their fundamental rights. 

Therefore, it is vital for rulings like these to come to assert and let people know that a woman is not bound to follow decisions taken for her by her family. If she is a major, she has the autonomy to enter a consensual relationship with another major. And this shouldn’t be the matter of contention for anyone.

Considering how most women in India reluctantly follow the norms and rules ‘set’ for them, this ruling emerges as a beacon of hope. It gives them the hope that they can live life on their own conditions without the limitations that exempt them from doing so. Secondly, given the patriarchal society that we live in, rulings like these also come as a sign that as a society, we are moving forward.

Though the concept of live-in relationships is still not very well-digested by our society, this decision by the Punjab and Haryana HC is a step in the right direction. It will, hopefully, help us gradually remove the taboo around live-in relationships and highlight the importance of the right to life and personal liberty.

Picture credits: Photo by Dương Nhân from Pexels

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