By Bhaskara Sharma 8 Minutes Read


Legitimate[1] is reasonable, acceptable and allowed by law. If parents of a child at birth are legally married, the child out of the wedlock is legitimate[2]. Essential aspects of legal definition[3] of the term legitimate[4] are –

  • Being neither false nor spurious. Being by established legal forms and requirements. To recognize the principles or acceptance of rules and standards.

To make legitimate is to –

  • To give legal status and authorization.To affirm or to show to be justified or have merit.


Apart from defining a child as legitimate[5], the word legitimate has other variations of meaning. To be legitimate is to make something legal, either by passing a law or publicly recognizing it as per the law. A government can be legitimized by being invited to world talks, or a movie by winning a prestigious award. The word legitimate may apply to a legal right or status but it also has an extended use, to be legitimate also means a right or status supported by tradition, custom, or accepted standards. 


The word legitimate has wide usage in Indian laws[6], the courts in India to decide a child to be legitimate or illegitimate have to seek the answers to the following questions –

  • Whether the child born within lawful wedlock?Whether at the time of the birth of the child, the father and mother of the child are legally married to each other?, At the time of the birth of the child, if the father and mother of the child are not legally married to each other, the child is illegitimate.

As per the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, under sections 5 and 7 if all conditions are fulfilled it is considered to be a valid marriage. Children born of such a valid marriage are alone considered legitimate. If the conditions laid down under Section 5 and 7 of the Act are not satisfied, the resultant marriage may be deemed void or voidable marriage.

As per Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, amarriage is void, if the marriage is in contravention of any of the conditions specified in Section 520 it shall be null and void. The children born of such a marriage are considered to be illegitimate children.

Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also defines Voidable marriage, it lays down the grounds of voidable marriages. If the marriage is annulled under any one of the grounds under Section 12, then the children born of such a marriage are considered to be illegitimate children.

Apart from the above, if proper ceremonies as defined under section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, are not performed at the time of marriage, the resultant marriage can not be termed as a valid marriage. Children born of such marriage will also fall under the category of illegitimate children. 

Hence, to sum up, children who will fall under the category of the illegitimate children under Hindu Law are as follows:

  • A child born of a void marriage.A child born of annulled or voidable marriage.A child born of an illicit relationship.A child born through concubinage.A child born of a marriage which is not valid because of the existence of proper ceremonies, as deemed required by the law.

The innocent child without having any hold or control over the actions of its parents has to suffer the consequence of it because of the essence, under Hindu law.[7] The rule of legitimacy is dependent upon the marriage. The social status of children is determined by the actions of their parents. If the parents have entered into a valid marriage, the children get a status of being legitimate but if the parents committed a folly and enter recklessly into an invalid marriage or a child is conceived without entering in a marriage the resultant innocent child is labeled as illegitimate.

As per Section 112 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872[8], which talks about birth during the marriage, conclusive proof of legitimacy. It states that any person who was born during the continuance of a valid marriage between his mother and any man, or within two hundred and eighty days after its dissolution, the mother remaining unmarried, shall be conclusive proof that he is the legitimate son of that man unless it can be shown that the parties to the marriage had no access to each other at any time when he could have been begotten.

Some usage in a sentence

  • Jane’s passport seemed legitimate, but on closer inspection, it was found to have been altered.They complained about excessive government intrusion into their legitimate activities.Legitimate refugees should be treated with compassion.Jack’s complaints were quite legitimate.Bob has a legitimate claim to the money.


Originated[9] in the mid-1500 century from Late Middle English, used in the sense of a child born of parents lawfully married to each other. Also from medieval Latin legitimatus which means something legal. Tracing back the roots to the word ‘legitimare’ and from Latin word legitimus which means lawful, also from lex & leg meaning law.

[1] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/legitimate

[2] “Legitimate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legitimate. Accessed 14 Jun. 2020.

[3] https://www.britannica.com/topic/legitimacy

[4] https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/legitimate

[5] https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/legitimate

[6] http://medind.nic.in/jbc/t12/i2/jbct12i2p111.pdf

[7] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/How-legitimate-is-an-illegitimate-childs-right-to-property/articleshow/15788019.cms

[8] Roy, Caesar. “PRESUMPTION AS TO LEGITIMACY IN SECTION 112 OF INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT NEEDS TO BE AMENDED.” Journal of the Indian Law Institute, vol. 54, no. 3, 2012, pp. 382–399. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44782478. Accessed 14 June 2020.

[9] https://www.etymonline.com/word/legitimate

Bhaskara Sharma

Pursuing BA-LLB from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad. I find peace in wandering through the new roads and capturing those moments through my camera. To keep myself creative I do content creation in the form of pictures and videos (photography and cinematography), I find pleasure in meeting and finding the best in people. Apart from my work, I also take great pleasure in listening to music, playing Lawn Tennis and enjoying travelling to different countries.

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