The Allahabad High Court has ruled that live-in relationships must be viewed from the lens of personal autonomy rather than from notions of social morality.
A Division bench of Justices Pritinker Diwaker and Ashutosh Srivastava made this observation while dealing with two writ petitions filed by interfaith live-in couples.
Shayara Khatun and her partner have been in a live-in relationship for more than two years and Zeenat Parveen and her partner for the past one year. All four petitioners are above 18 years of age and complained in their plea that the fathers of the girls were interfering in their respective day-to-day lives. They said they had approached the concerned police authorities but they were not extending any help and, consequently, the life and liberty of the petitioners were undermined.
The bench in its order stated that live-in-relationships had become part and parcel of life and were approved by the Supreme Court. The bench said: “The live-in-relationship is required to be viewed from the lens of personal autonomy arising out of the right to live guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, rather than notions of social morality. The right to life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is liable to be protected at all costs. In such view of the matter, we are of the opinion that police authorities are obligated to protect the rights of the petitioners. In the event the petitioners approach the police authorities complaining of any threat to their life and liberty, we hope and trust that the police authorities shall perform their duties as expected from them under law.”
Two days after this ruling, the Delhi High Court pulled up Uttar Pradesh police for arresting the relatives of a man who had married against the will of the woman’s family. “U.P. mein chalta hoga, yahaan nahi [it may work in U.P. but not here]”, said Justice Mukta Gupta to Uttar Pradesh police, adding, “this will not be permitted here in Delhi. You cannot do illegal acts over here.”
A protection plea was filed by the couple after Uttar Pradesh police arrested the father and brother of the man and their whereabouts was unknown for the past one and a half months. The couple are both major and submitted they had married of their own free will. The court also pulled up the police for not verifying the age of the woman before making arrests in the matter and disallowed the police to take the couple out of the jurisdiction.