In an unprecedented hearing, the Supreme Court has ordered new rules for live-in relationships that no marriage is needed for an adult couple (both above 18) to live together, even if the man is not 21-years-old – the legal age for men to get married in India.

Recently, the Kerala High Court had ordered annulment of the marriage of a 20-year-old couple saying that the man was not 21 when they married in April 2017. The court had actually cancelled the marriage and ordered the girl to go back to her parent’s home. Giving out rulings on this issue, the Supreme Court cited that a 20-year-old woman, whose marriage has been annulled, can still choose who she wants to live with and there is no need of marriage as long as both of the couple are adults (i.e. above 18). Referring to the Marriage Law, the Supreme Court also stated that Kerala High Court shouldn’t have cancelled the marriage on its own.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court also said that live-in relationships for adult couples who weren’t married are even recognised by the Indian Legislature and has also been included in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Mentioning that adults in India have the right to make their own choices, the apex court said, “It needs no special emphasis to state that attaining the age of majority in an individual’s life has its own significance.” The Supreme Court bench also added that the courts cannot, as long as the choice remains, assume the role of parens patriae (a Latin term that literally translates to parent of the nation).”

Ruling over the case of the 20-year-old Kerala woman, the Supreme Court set aside high court’s grant of giving custody of the woman to her parents and said that we make it clear that the freedom of choice would be of Thushara as to with whom she wants to live”. The apex court had also clarified that a court cannot interfere in the marriage of two consenting adult and cannot annul the marriage in a habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, for securing the person’s release) petition.

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