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Tribune Impact
Protect Sonia, husband: HC
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, October 15
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today stepped into the ongoing controversy over the direction of a gotra khap panchayat asking a pregnant woman to dissolve her marriage with her husband and treat him as her brother.

Directing the Haryana Government and the Haryana Police to protect the life and liberty of the girl, Sonia, and her husband, Rampal, “at all costs”, the Bench also issued notice of motion for November 22 to the respondents.

Taking up a public interest litigation filed by the Haryana branch of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties through its general secretary, advocate Ashish Goel, the Bench of Chief Justice B.K. Roy and Mr Justice Surya Kant also restrained the khap panchayat from interfering in the marital life of the couple.

Noting that nobody could be allowed to change the lives of people in such a manner, the Bench also directed the authorities to ensure that nobody could coerce the couple to change the status of their marriage.

Enclosing reports published in The Tribune in the October 12 and October 14 issues, the petitioner had sought directions to the respondents to take immediate steps to protect the lives of the couple as also restrain the panchayat members from interfering in their marital life.

The petitioner has also pointed out that this was not the first such case in Haryana. It is also stated in the petition that it was surprising that despite reports, no action had been initiated by the district administration and the police in the matter.

One and a half years after marriage, three months pregnant, Sonia had been directed by the gotra khap panchayat to dissolve her marriage and accept her husband as a brother. However, Sonia had responded contemptuously to the panchayat diktat, saying that she would prefer death to following the order.

The decision of the khap panchayat of three villages — Asanda, Baproda and Kharhar — was based on the suspicion that Sonia belonged to the Rathi gotra and a marriage between the Rathi and Dahiya gotras was not socially acceptable.

Sonia, however, claimed that she belonged to Hooda gotra. While nobody objected to the marriage for over 15 months, leaders of the Rathi khap became active about three months ago and tried to prevail upon Rampal and Sonia to dissolve the marriage and accept each other as brother and sister.

A panchayat convened by them told Rampal and his family that marriages between members of the Rathi and Dahiya gotras were socially unacceptable.

As such Rampal and Sonia should dissolve their marriage and accept each other as brother and sister.

After the panchayat direction, Sonia was admitted to the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Rohtak, for a threatened abortion.

Rohtak (TNS): Welcoming the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a beaming Sonia said today that she would go to Asanda directly once she was discharged from the PGIMS Hospital here.

Talking to The Tribune, she said, “I don’t think I will now need much of medical care. The real medicine has come from the court.”

Sonia said she hoped the panchayat would realise its folly. “I only hope they will never do this to anyone. Not to me.

And not to anybody else. It was a harrowing experience which nearly cost me my and my unborn baby’s lives”, she added.

Doctors who were till an hour ago saying she was under tremendous stress and sounded incoherent whenever the issue of the panchayat’s decision came up, said Sonia’s condition had improved dramatically once the court decision was conveyed to her.


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