India

Supreme Court Terms ‘Honour Killing’ ‘Barbaric, Shameful,’ Asks States to Stamp Out

Tarique Anwar, BeyondHeadlines

New Delhi: In a historic judgment yesterday, the Supreme Court termed Khap Panchayats (caste council) illegal and described the honour killing as “barbaric and shameful.” The apex court said that these should be stamped out “ruthlessly” and asked states to suspend district magistrates and superintendents of police (SPs) concerned if they failed to act against the offenders.

Khap is a cluster of villages united by caste and geography.It is as old as 14th century started by upper caste jats to consolidate their power and position.The main rule is that all boys and girls within a khap are considered siblings.

Khap panchayat governs the khap formed by same gotra ( clan) families from several neighbouring villages. Khap panchayats are prevalent in Northwestern Indian states such as Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh since ancient times. Love marriages are considered taboo in areas governed by Khap panchayats.Those living in a Khap are not allowed to marry in the same gotra or even in any gotra from the same village.Many young couples have been killed in the past defying khap rules.

Khap panchyat imposes its writ through social boycotts and fines and in most cases end up either killing or forcing the victims to commit suicide.All this is done in the name of brotherhood and its honour. It is due to the inherent weakness of democratically elected Panchayati Raj institutions,Khap panchayats have been powerful. Even the government has not done much to control their power.

A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra said in a judgement that the new trends of kangaroo courts, honour killings, “khap” panchayaths in northern India and “katta” panchayats in Tamil Nadu were barbaric and illegal, the perpetrators of which required the harshest punishment.
Terming honour killings as shameful, the apex court said, “There is nothing honourable in honour killing or other atrocities and, in fact, it is nothing but a barbaric and shameful murder.”

A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra said in a judgement that the new trends of kangaroo courts, honour killings, “khap” panchayaths in northern India and “katta” panchayats in Tamil Nadu were barbaric and illegal, the perpetrators of which required the harshest punishment.

Terming honour killings as shameful, the apex court said, “There is nothing honourable in honour killing or other atrocities and, in fact, it is nothing but a barbaric and shameful murder.”

“Atrocities with respect to personal lives of people, committed by brutal, feudal minded persons deserve harsh punishment,” the Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court has now directed State Government to suspend the District Magistrate/Collector and SSP/SPs of the district as well as other officials concerned and chargesheet them.

The bench said the Government should proceed against such officials departmentally if they do not prevent the incident despite having prior knowledge.

“If they failed to promptly apprehend the culprits and others involved and institute criminal proceedings against them, as in our opinion they will be deemed to be directly or indirectly accountable in this connection,” the bench said.

“Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism and feudal mentality. Moreover,these acts take the law into their own hands, and amount to kangaroo courts, which are wholly illegal,” the bench said.

The apex court ruling said copy of the judgement shall be sent to all chief secretaries, home secretaries and director generals of police in all states and union territories for circulating the same to the district magistrates and SSPs for compliance.

Instances of “honour killings” are reported with alarming and increasing regularity across the country, a data suggests that the total number of such killings could be well over 1,000 every year in India.

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