NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday frowned on honour killings and ruled any attempt by informal institutions such as khap panchayats to end a marriage between consenting adults is illegal as it violates their fundamental right to choice and dignity. It ordered authorities to take steps to protect inter-caste and inter-religious couples from honour crimes.
“Assertion of choice is an insegregable facet of liberty and dignity. When the ability to choose is crushed in the name of class honour and the person’s physical frame is treated with absolute indignity, a chilling effect dominates over … the society at large,” a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said.
The court asked central and state governments to take preventive, remedial and punitive steps to deter khaps from taking the law into their own hands.They must provide protection to inter-caste and inter-religious couples.
The police chief in each district should oversee the safety of such couples and take the assistance of the court to make preventive arrests to save them from harassment, the court said. There should be dedicated courts to deal with honour crimes and 24-hour helplines for couples to seek assistance, the court said, while directing all states to file compliance reports within six weeks.
The ruling will hold till a law is passed on dealing with honour crimes. The top court was dealing with a public interest litigation filed by NGO Shakti Vahini, which drew its attention to honour crimes prevalent in several parts of the country. At least 288 such cases were reported from Haryana, Punjab, Himachal, Delhi, UP and Bihar and other states between 2014 and 2016, the NGO said.
Feudal perceptions such as clan, caste and honour have to melt into oblivion, the court said in its ruling. “…any kind of torture or torment or ill-treatment in the name of honour that tantamount to atrophy of choice of an individual relating to love and marriage by any assembly, whatsoever nomenclature it assumes, is illegal and cannot be allowed a moment of existence.”