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Live-in: Some fear misuse, others welcome it

October 10, 2008 12:18 IST

Maharashtra government's nod to the 'live-in' proposal, where in it considered giving the status of a 'wife' to a woman, if she is involved in such a relationship for a 'reasonable period', has received mixed reactions, raising fears of misuse.

Nishita John, a professional working in a consultancy firm feels that the government need not bring in legislation to regulate live-in relationships.

"If the relationship between the two individuals is consensual, then both should also consider how they will manage if the relationship should fail. It is not for the state to decide anything," she said.

Maharashtra government had approved the proposal on October 8, based on recommendations of the Justice Mallimath Committee which said if a man and a woman are living together as husband and wife for a 'reasonably long period', the man shall be deemed to have married the woman according to customary rights of either party.

The committee had also mooted that the definition of the word 'wife' under Section 125 of the CrPc, be amended to include a woman, living with the man like his wife for a 'reasonably long period'.

However, the definition of 'reasonably long period' is missing from the recommendation, which has left many worried on account of its worthiness and ramifications as it may be grossly misused.

"The period for which the couple live together should be clearly defined to ensure that it cannot be misused," Vivek Jaiswal, a software professional, said.

Indian cities have been seeing a growing number of live-in relationships, a concept once frowned upon as being too 'Western', and popular culture like films have also begun to accept the reality of its existence.

However, experts feel that the debate over the amendment was a larger one that extended beyond live-in relationships, which are more an urban phenomenon.

"The amendment would be more useful to women living in rural areas. In many areas polygamy still exists with no legal rights for the second wife under law," lawyer and women's right activist Veena Gowda said.

This new definition of a wife under the CrPC would provide some financial protection to women who are in relationships that are deemed as marriage by the society they live-in but have no legal standing, she said.

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