Live-in without divorce is a punishable offense: HC

In an important ruling, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has determined that a couple living together without obtaining a divorce from their previous spouse cannot be classified as being in a “live-in relationship” or being in a union similar to marriage. The court further stated that such an arrangement would amount to the offense of bigamy under Sections 494/495 of the Indian Penal Code.

The court observed, “It seems that the purpose of this petition is to avoid criminal prosecution for adultery… The real intention behind this petition is to seek validation from the court for their actions.” These remarks were made by Justice Kuldeep Tiwari while dismissing a petition filed by a couple from Punjab who sought protection from the court. The couple claimed that they were facing threats to their lives due to their relationship.

According to the couple, they had been in a “live-in relationship” since September 2023, and while the male partner’s family had accepted their relationship, the female partner’s relatives were opposed to it and had issued threats against them. Fearing for their safety and freedom, the couple approached the High Court seeking protection.

During the hearing, the court noted that the male partner was already married and had a two-year-old daughter. He had not obtained a divorce from his current spouse. The court, therefore, refused to provide any protection to the couple, stating, “The male partner is engaging in a lustful and adulterous life with the female partner without obtaining a valid divorce from his previous spouse, which may constitute an offense punishable under Sections 494/495 (bigamy) of the IPC.”

Additionally, the court regarded the allegations of threats to the couple’s lives as unsubstantiated and lacking in detail.

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