Attack on couples by khap panchayats illegal, says Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: Describing attacks by khap panchayats on adult men and women going for inter-caste marriages as “absolutely illegal”, the Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the government for not doing much to rein in them.

Attack on couples by khap panchayats illegal, says Supreme Court

The apex court said if an adult man and woman married, no khap, panchayat, individual or society could question them.

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16

Describing attacks by khap panchayats on adult men and women going for inter-caste marriages as “absolutely illegal”, the Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the government for not doing much to rein in them. 

“Whenever there is any kind of collective attack on a boy or girl…who are adults, it is absolutely illegal,” said a Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra while hearing a PIL in 2010 by Shakti Vahini – an NGO—seeking directions to the Centre and states to take steps to prevent honour killings. 

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Khap panchayats are caste or community organisations in rural parts of western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and certain other parts of India which often indulge in vigilantism giving mediaeval punishments based on their customs and traditions. 

The Bench said if an adult man and woman went for a marriage, no khap panchayat, individual or society could question them. It asked the Centre to give its response to the suggestions given by amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran on ways to prevent harassment and killings of young couples in the name of family honour for marrying inter-caste or intra-clan (gotra). 

On behalf of the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said a Bill on the issue was already pending in Parliament.

She said the government was serious about dignity of all citizens, particularly women, and if adults take their own decisions regarding marriage there was no question of any illegality.

She, however, sought time to file the government’s response to the suggestions made by Ramachandran. 

“Whatever the amicus curiae says about khap, we are not concerned with that. What we are concerned with is that if an adult girl or boy gets into marriage, no khap, no individual or no society can question them,” the Bench said, indicating it would pass an appropriate order based on Ramachandran’s suggestions on February 5, the next date of hearing. 

The apex court had earlier sought suggestions from Shakti Vahini, amicus curiae and khap panchayats on the issue. 

Earlier, the apex court had invited khap panchayats to hear their views before issuing any order to stop them from harassing and killing couples and women in the name of honour. 

The Centre had pleaded with the court to put in place a mechanism to monitor crimes against women by khap panchayats, as the police were not able to protect women facing ordeal at their hands. 

The court had said as a pilot project, it would examine the situation in three districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where khap panchayats were active. It had summoned the superintendents of police of Rohtak and Jind districts of Haryana and that of Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh to apprise the court of the situation there.

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