In the case of X v NIL, a couple in a live-in relationship filed an appeal contesting a Family Court ruling that denied them a divorce under the Special Marriage Act.
The appellant couple had signed a registered agreement to live together in February 2006, one of them was a Hindu and the other a Christian. They had a child together and were married for a very long time. They contacted the Family Court with a combined petition for amicable divorce under the Special Marriage Act, but they had since decided to split and discontinue their relationship. They were not legally married according to the Special Marriage Act, so the Family Court declined to grant them a divorce. The appellants turned to the High Court as a result of this.
According to the appellants’ attorney, it is not the court’s place to determine whether or not a couple is legally married once both parties embraced their relationship as a marriage by proclamation.
Analysis of Court order
The Kerala High Court divisional bench of Justices A. Muhamed Mustaque and Sophy Thomas noted that the law does not recognise live-in relationships as marriage and that when two parties choose to live together based solely on an agreement and not in accordance with any personal law or the Special Marriage Act, they cannot claim that their living arrangement is a marriage or that they are entitled to a divorce. The court also ruled that live-in partnerships are not yet legally recognised and that only marriages solemnised in accordance with personal law or secular legislation, such as the Special Marriage Act, are recognised by law as marriages.
The High Court stated that two people cannot declare a living arrangement to be a marriage or file for divorce if it is the result of a simple agreement between them rather than a marriage or the Special Marriage Act. The High Court instructed the Family Court to return the petition, judging it to be unmaintainable, noting that the Family Court lacks the authority to hear such a divorce claim. The Court stated that while live-in partnerships may be recognised for other purposes, they are not recognised for divorce. Divorce is only a way to end a valid marriage, the Court stated.