The Punjab and Haryana High Court has taken a liberal approach while deciding a plea for protection by a runaway couple, where the girl was short of attaining majority by a few months. The bench of Justice Sant Prakash held that it would be a travesty of justice in case protection is denied to persons who have opted to reside together without the sanctity of marriage, and directed Bathinda police to decide their application for protection within a week.
The petitioners, aged 17 years (girl) and 20 years (boy), came before the court seeking protection of their life and liberty at the hands of the parents of petitioner no.1. They wanted her to marry a person of their choice as they had come to know about her relationship with petitioner no. 2. Thus, she left her home on May 17 and they have been on the run since then. They decided to live together till such time as they could solemnise a marriage, i.e. on attaining the marriageable age.
They state that their relationship would never be accepted by the family as they belong to different castes. They even sought protection from Senior Superintendent of Police, Bathinda but there was no response.
The court observed that the petitioners have approached the court seeking protection of their life and liberty from the respondents while seeking directions restraining them from interfering in the peaceful live-in relationship of the petitioners.
“The petitioners have not approached this court either seeking permission to marry or for approval of their relationship. The limited prayer as noted is for grant of protection to them, fearing the ire of family members of petitioner No.1, on account of the parties residing together without the sanctity of a valid marriage,” the court noted.
The court cited the judgement given by a Division Bench of the court in Rajwinder Kaur and another Versus State of Punjab, (2014) where it was held that marriage is not a must for security to be provided to a runaway couple. The court also cited a recent judgement of the high court where a similar approach was taken as also orders of Allahabad High Court granting protection in such recent cases.
“The concept of a live-in relationship may not be acceptable to all, but it cannot be said that such a relationship is an illegal one or that living together without the sanctity of marriage constitutes an offence,” the court observed.
The court also cited Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, where female live-in-partners and the children of live-in-couples have been accorded adequate protection.
The court also pointed to honour killings prevalent in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh which is a result of people marrying without their family’s acceptance.
“It would be a travesty of justice in case protection is denied to persons who have opted to reside together without the sanctity of marriage and such persons have to face dire consequences at the hands of persons from whom protection is sought. In case such a course is adopted and protection denied, the courts would also be failing in their duty to provide its citizens a right to their life and liberty as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and to uphold to the Rule of law,” the court held.
The court clearly stated that the petitioners have taken a decision to reside together without the sanctity of marriage and it is not for the courts to judge them on their decision. The court also cited the Supreme Court judgement in S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal, (2010) whereby the court held that “live in relationship is permissible and the act of two adults living together cannot be considered illegal or unlawful, while further holding that the issue of morality and criminality are not co-extensive”.
The court, thus, observed that the petitioners have not committed any offence and said, “This court sees no reason as to why their prayer for grant of protection cannot be acceded to”. The court refused to take the same view as other benches of the court who had denied such protection to live-in couples and stated that, “with due respect to the judgments rendered by the Coordinate Benches, who have denied protection to couples who are in live in relationship, this court is unable to adopt the same view.”
Without evaluating the evidentiary value of the documents placed on the file, the court disposed the petition while directing Senior Superintendent of Police, Bathinda to decide the representation of the petitioners within 1 week of receiving a copy of the court’s order and grant them protection, if any threat to their life and liberty is perceived.
A similar view was taken by a bench of Justice Jaishree Thakur while granting protection to a couple in a live-in relationship. On the other hand, vide order dated May 11, bench of Justice HS Madaan denied protection to a live-in couple calling their live-in relationship morally and socially unacceptable.
The order may be read here:
Live-in relationships may not be acceptable to all, but not illegal: Punjab & Haryana HC
Woman embraces Islam and marries a Muslim, Jammu & Kashmir HC grants protection
Social acceptance of live-in couples is increasing: Punjab & Haryana HC grants protection