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An unacceptable verdict in the constitutional sense


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Related Constitutional provisions

Mains level: Significance of constitutional tenets in safeguarding individual rights and personal choice, Constitutional morality and personal liberty and various Supreme court Judgment's in this regard


What is the news?

  • A recent judgment by the Allahabad High Court in the case of Kiran Rawat vs State of UP.
  • The court declined the prayer of an inter-faith couple in a live-in relationship for protection from police harassment.
  • The court deemed the live-in relationship as a “social problem” and relied on personal laws on marriage

Central Idea

  • A recent judgment by the Allahabad High Court has garnered significant national attention. The ruling in Kiran Rawat vs State of UP undermines the principles of constitutional morality in personal relationships, a notion repeatedly affirmed by the Supreme Court of India. The judgment, has been criticised for its departure from constitutional principles, disregard for precedent, and reliance on irrelevant personal laws.

What is the case?

  • The case of the petitioners, a Muslim man and a Hindu woman, was short and simple. They are around 30 years of age, living together and their relation is based on mutual love and affection.
  • They alleged that the local police have been torturing them while living in a rented house, and sought protection from police harassment, allegedly done on the basis of a complaint made by a family member

What is mean by constitutional morality?

  • Constitutional morality refers to the principles and values embedded in a constitution that guide the interpretation and application of its provisions.
  • It encompasses the spirit and objectives of the constitution, promoting justice, equality, freedom, and the protection of fundamental rights.
  • Constitutional morality goes beyond conventional social norms and customs, emphasizing the adherence to constitutional principles even in the face of opposition or prevailing societal beliefs.

What is personal liberty?

  • Personal liberty refers to the individual’s freedom to make choices, decisions, and actions without undue interference or coercion from external forces, including the state or other individuals.
  • It is a fundamental right that is protected by various legal frameworks, including constitutions and human rights declarations.
  • Personal liberty encompasses various aspects of an individual’s life, including physical, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as their autonomy and privacy.
  • However, personal liberty is not an absolute right and may be limited in certain circumstances,

Main factors that make the judgment unacceptable in the constitutional sense

  • Prioritizing Conventional Social Morality: The High Court is accused of being influenced by conventional social morality rather than upholding constitutional principles. This undermines individual autonomy and personal liberty, which are essential components of constitutional morality.
  • Disregard for Supreme Court Judgments: Despite citing Supreme Court judgments on live-in relationships, the High Court rejects their intended purpose without providing sound reasons. This undermines the binding nature of Supreme Court judgments and the consistency of legal interpretation.
  • Irrelevant Reliance on Personal Laws: The judgment relies on personal laws related to marriage that are deemed irrelevant to the case. By doing so, the High Court deviates from the constitutional framework and fails to prioritize the fundamental rights of individuals.

How the judgement shows an inclination towards orthodoxy?

  • Assuming Marriage as a Condition Precedent: Though there were many deficits in the petition, the High Court could not have assumed that marriage is a condition precedent for constitutional protection and the exercise of fundamental rights.
  • Acting as a Theological Court: In effect, The High Court acted as a theological court, as if the very idea of individual liberty and autonomy are alien to the writ jurisdiction. The verdict shows a clear inclination towards social orthodoxy and religious revivalism.
  • Reiteration of Traditional Beliefs:
  • The court tried to reiterating traditional beliefs on marriage and morals, rather than embracing a progressive and inclusive approach. By relying on and reinforcing traditional views, the court fails to accommodate changing societal norms and the importance of personal choices and freedoms
  • Rejection of Supreme Court Precedents: The law laid down by the Supreme Court is binding on all the courts in the country, as in Article 141 of the Constitution. The judgment of the Allahabad High Court rejects the precedential value of Supreme Court verdicts on live-in relationships, such as D. Velusamy (2010), Indra Sarma (2013), and Dhanu Lal (2015). By doing so, the High Court disregards the guidance provided by the apex court, which has recognized and protected the rights of individuals in live-in relationships.

The Judgements by the Supreme Court which upholds personal liberty

  • Decriminalization of Adultery in Joseph Shine vs Union of India (2018): In the case of Joseph Shine vs Union of India (2018), the Supreme Court decriminalized adultery defined under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court held that individual moral aberrations should not be punished by the state’s police power. The judgment emphasized that fidelity is a value, but not one that the state should police.
  • Striking Down of Section 377: In the case of Navtej Singh Johar (2018), the Supreme Court substantially struck down Section 377 of the IPC, which dealt with same-sex relations. The court’s judgment was a constitutional adjudication rather than a mere moral judgment. It recognized the importance of personal choices and limited the state’s power in the realm of personal relationships.
  • In Lata Singh (2006) case: The SC t directed police authorities throughout the country to see to it that any adult undergoing inter caste or inter religious marriage is not harassed by anyone.
  • Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr. (2010): The Supreme Court held, while it is true that the mainstream view in our society is that sexual contact should take place only between marital partners, there is no statutory offence that takes place when adults willingly engage in sexual relations outside the marital setting.

Note: Note down these judgements to support your argument when question asks you to critically analyse

Way forward

  • Clear Guidance on Live-in Relationships: The Supreme Court should provide clear guidelines and legal recognition for live-in relationships, emphasizing the protection of individuals’ rights and dignity. This would prevent confusion and inconsistent interpretations by lower courts in the future.
  • Judicial Training and Sensitization: There is a need to conduct training programs and sensitization workshops for judges at all levels. This would ensure a better understanding of constitutional principles, fundamental rights, and the evolving nature of societal norms, enabling judges to make informed and unbiased decisions.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Public awareness campaigns should be conducted to educate people about the rights and legal protections available to individuals in live-in relationships. This would help dispel social stigmas and promote acceptance of diverse personal choices.
  • Legislative Reforms: The legislature should consider enacting specific laws or amending existing ones to address the legal rights and responsibilities of individuals in live-in relationships. This would provide clarity and protection to couples in such relationships and ensure equal treatment under the law.
  • Strengthening Precedent: It is crucial to emphasize the binding nature of Supreme Court judgments on all courts in the country. Lower courts should be vigilant in adhering to established precedents, respecting the hierarchy of judicial decisions, and avoiding interpretations that deviate from constitutional principles.
  • Dialogue and Engagement: Societal dialogue and engagement with stakeholders, including legal experts, activists, and religious leaders, can help promote a better understanding of individual rights, personal choices, and the importance of constitutional values in a diverse society


  • The Allahabad High Court’s judgment in Kiran Rawat vs State of UP reflects a regressive view on personal relationships and disregards constitutional morality. By neglecting Supreme Court judgments, relying on irrelevant personal laws, and failing to uphold personal liberties, the High Court has erred in its duty to provide justice. It is crucial that the Supreme Court rectifies this judicial indiscipline and reaffirms the significance of constitutional tenets in safeguarding individual rights and personal choice

Also read:

Same-Sex Marriages can rock societal values: Centre


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