In an order of significant import, the Punjab & Haryana High Court held that life and liberty of a live-in couple must be protected even if one of the partners has not attained marriageable age (Priyapreet Kaur and Anr. v. State of Punjab and Ors.).
A single-Judge Bench of Justice Alka Sarin, therefore, remarked that the society cannot determine how an individual should live her or his life, especially when the individuals were major.
Since the right to choose a partner is a facet of the right to life, the life and liberty of a live-in couple should be protected, Justice Sarin ruled.
“Merely because of the fact that petitioner No. 2 is not of a marriageable age the petitioners cannot possibly be denied enforcement of their fundamental rights as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the Court held.
The Court was hearing a petition filed by a couple who alleged that they were being harassed and threatened by the woman’s family on account of their relationship. The two intended to marry each other but chose to be in a live-in relationship since the man had not yet attained the minimum marriageable age. The two were, however, majors.
The High Court placed reliance on Supreme Court judgment on Shafin Jahan v. Asokan KM, popularly known as Hadiya case, to underscore that every individual has been guaranteed the right to life under the Constitution, with the choice of a partner being an important facet of the same.
Therefore, there were no legally justifiable reasons for the family and relatives of a live-in couple to object to their relationship, the High Court concluded.
Though the Court refrained from remarking on the merits or the legal validity of the relationship between the petitioners, it directed the police to take necessary steps and consider the couple’s representation for security.
The non-attainment of the minimum marriageable age was not an impediment to seek protection of life and liberty, the Court reasoned, especially since they were both major.
The Court also made it clear that parents could not dictate terms to their adult children on how to conduct their lives, and that individuals were entitled to live as they chose provided, they did so within the contours of the law.
“The petitioners are both major and have every right to live their lives as they desire within the four corners of the law. The society cannot determine how an individual should live her or his life,” the order said.
The Court, however, emphasized that it had not adjudged on the legal validity of the relationship in question.
“It is, however, made clear that this order shall neither be construed as an expression of opinion on the veracity of the contents of the present petition nor as a stamp of this Court on the validity of the alleged live-in relationship of the petitioners and shall have no effect on any other civil or criminal proceedings, if any, instituted/pending against them,” the Court emphasised.
On these terms, the petition was disposed.