Centre seeks SC order to halt honour killings

The Centre has urged the Supreme Court to pass “appropriate” directions in order to prevent honour killings allegedly at the instance of “khap” panchayats—village councils comprising male elders—in parts of north India, as it would take time for the government to formulate a law in this regard.

Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, appearing for the Union government, submitted before a bench of Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B Lokur that the Centre had to consult different states to arrive at a decision, and the process of consultation was already on.

“Whatever appropriate order could be passed should be allowed to be passed. We at the moment cannot give any opinion on the proposed bill by the Law Commission of India. The discussion of the proposed bill is irrelevant as it is not even before Parliament,” she said.

Counsel representing khaps, however, opposed her contention, saying that the Centre has still not clarified its position on the Law commission’s recommendations and neither did it file its affidavit. On this, the government’s law officer said an affidavit by the Union government was ready but had not been filed yet.

The bench said the matter required detailed hearing and would be taken up in the first week of March.

The court was hearing a PIL seeking direction to the government to take action against khap panchayats for allegedly harassing and killing couples, particularly women, in the name of family’s honour for entering into inter-caste or intra-gotra marriages.

Earlier, the Law Commission had circulated a proposed statute —Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance) Bill, 2011—and sought public response. It proposed up to one-year of imprisonment and a Rs 10,000 fine for those who took part in khap meetings convened to condemn any inter-caste marriage.

The bill also proposed punishment of up to two years of imprisonment and Rs 20,000 fine if one was found taking steps to prevent such marriages, and a three-year jail term and Rs 30,000 penalty for anyone resorting to criminal intimidation of such couples.

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