Says it follows policy of non-interference in personal laws of any community
Washing its hands off the unabated rise in the cases of honour crimes in the country, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that it does not interfere in the personal laws of any community unless the demand comes from within the community itself. It has also said police and public order are state subjects under the Constitution and it is the state’s responsibility to deal with the offences in question.
Erroneously linking honour crimes to personal laws (there is ample evidence that majority of honour killings in India involve couples in inter-caste marriages and not those that marry within the gotra), the government, in its affidavit to the apex court, says, “Family relations in India have traditionally been governed by religious and personal laws. The freedom of choice with respect to marriage has been specifically recognised and protected under our legal framework and under every personal law women have the same right to enter into a marriage with free and full consent. At the same time, given the cultural and social diversity of the country, the government has adopted a policy of non-interference in the personal laws of any community…”
Ironically, a study on honour-related deaths in India, commissioned by the National Commission for Women, found in July last year that only 3 per cent of the documented cases of honour crimes involved couples married within their gotra. “In this petition, there is no meaning of the mention that the government does not interfere in the personal laws of communities. Honour crime is an issue of a couple’s freedom of choice to marry and their human rights, nor of personal laws. The Centre has a Ministry of Women to ensure the wellbeing of the fair sex. It can’t escape by saying that police and public order are state subjects,” Rishi kant of Shakti Vahini, the petitioning NGO, told The Tribune.
The petitioners will now seek an urgent hearing before the Supreme Court considering Haryana and UP, the biggest reporters of honour crimes, haven’t replied to the matter in a year. The case was filed in June last year.
On the other front also, the Home Ministry’s affidavit in the matter inspires little hope. Except mentioning that the government has constituted a Group of Ministers to debate the need of amending the IPC or a separate law on honour killings, the affidavit steers clear of stating what immediate steps the Centre was taking to prevent such killings and if it was doing enough to publicise SC’s directions in the matter, including the one that said the DCs and the SSPs would be responsible for any such crime in their area.
Haryana, UP ignore notice
Haryana and UP have not replied to the notice sent to them by the Supreme Court which is hearing a petition on what the state governments and the Centre are doing to prevent honour killings in India. The case was filed in June, 2010.
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- India decries ‘honour killings’ (bbc.co.uk)
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- Where have all the girls gone? (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)