India's Supreme Court has backed the right of unmarried couples to live together as judges heard a case involving an actress accused of corrupting young minds by promoting pre-marital sex.
A three-judge panel sitting in New Delhi pointed out on Tuesday that even the Hindu gods Lord Krishna and Radha were co-habiting lovers, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
"When two adult people want to live together, what is the offense?" the judges said. "Living together is not an offense. Living together is a right to life."
Indian actress Khusboo, who uses only one name, appealed to the court to quash more than 20 cases filed against her in 2005 after she made allegedly immoral comments in magazine interviews.
She told one publication that "no educated man would expect his (bride) to be a virgin" -- sparking outrage in parts of southern India, where she is a star of Tamil-language movies.
"We are not bothered. At the most it is a personal view," the judges said, while reserving judgment on Khusboo's petition.
They challenged lawyers acting for the complainants to produce evidence of any girl running away from her family with a lover in response to the actress's comments.
Marriage remains the central focus of most Indian lives, with weddings celebrated in lavish style and many households made up of extended families including grandparents, parents, children and assorted relatives.
Khusboo, 39, took her legal battle to the Supreme Court after a court in Chennai in 2008 dismissed her plea for quashing the criminal cases filed against her.