A vacation Bench comprising Justices R M Lodha and A K Patnaik were initially reluctant to entertain a PIL filed by NGO ‘Shakti Vahini’ highlighting the rein of terror of khap panchayats dishing out extreme penalties to couples who fell in love or eloped transgressing the socially resented sagotra marital relationships.
When the Bench was weighing the necessity of the court’s intervention when it appeared to it that the government was alive to the situation, counsel for the NGO Ravi Kant said that FIRs have been registered only after the brutal murder of couples.
“No step was taken to prevent such extreme punishment awarded by kangaroo courts in the name of saving family and community honour,” he said, adding apart from numerous honour killings reported from Haryana and others states, two incidents have been reported from Delhi in the last couple of days.
Politicians have added fuel to the fire by making statements that appeared to approve the doings of the khap panchayats mainly because these village committees influenced the voters to a large extent, Kant alleged. The issuance of notice on the PIL against honour killings ordered ostensibly by khap panchayats assumes significance as just a week back the apex court had refused to entertain another PIL seeking amendment to the Hindy Marriage Act for a ban on same `gotra’ marriages, a plea raised militantly by khap panchayats.
The PIL has sought a direction to the Centre and the states of Haryana, UP Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh where it said honour killings have been practised in one form or the other.
It said the khap panchayat-inflicted punishment on couples marrying against social norms could be equated with long-term low level physical abuse and bullying as a punishment for bringing alleged dishonor to the family.
“Such crimes include battery, torture, mutilation, rape, forced marriage, imprisonment within the home, and even murder. These crimes are intended to protect the family honour by preventing and punishing women for allegedly violating community norms for behaviour — particularly sexual behaviour. Women have been abducted, arrested, or raped and are often blamed for shaming their families. Reasons for honour killings can be as trivial as talking to a man, or as innocent as suffering rape. These crimes are often collective and premeditated,” it said.
The NGO suggested that the states should constitute a special cell in each district which should be able to provide protection to the khap tormented couples once they approach it.