In an important decision, the Kerala High Court has acknowledged the right of adults to choose their partners and live together, even outside marriage.
The Division Bench comprising Justice V Chitambaresh and Justice KP Jyothindranath said on Friday that the court cannot close its eyes to live-in relationships which have now become rampant, thereby allowing an 18-year-old young man and a 19-year-old young woman to live together.
The Muslim couple in question hail from Kerala's Alappuzha district.
According to The New Indian Express, the parents of the woman had filed a habeas corpus petition at the High Court, alleging that she was being detained by the young man. The woman's father argued that he is willing to marry her off to the young man once he attains the age of marriage and opposed the couple living together before marriage.
Upholding the right of the couple to live together, the court said that habeas corpus petitions cannot be used to separate partners. The court said that the woman was free to live with the man of her choice and could later marry him when he attains the legal age for marriage.
The court said that it was "bound to respect the unfettered right of a major to have a live-in relationship even though the same may not be palatable to the orthodox section of the society."
"It transpires that the girl is living with the youth out of her own volition and she being a major has a right to live whatever she wants to as is permissible or to move as per her choice. The girl has every right to live with the youth even outside her wedlock since the live-in relationship has been statutorily recognized by the Legislature itself," TNIE reported.
The HC order comes at a time when the court has previously attracted criticism for not taking the right of individuals into account and resorting to â€˜parens patriaeâ€™ to settle cases where young women chose to live with their partners.
Parens Patriae refers to the power of a court or state to intervene and act as the parent of any child or individual in need of protection.
In May this year, the Supreme Court had overruled the HC order and allowed a Thiruvananthapuram-based couple to live together, in a case where the young man had not attained the age of 21 at the time he married the woman in a temple.
While the HC had given the woman's custody to her parents citing that the young man had not attained the legal age to marry, the apex court set aside the order, to allow them to live together even outside marriage.