Khap Panchayat Verdict: A Look At Supreme Court Guidelines To Prevent Honour Killing
The Supreme Court court laid down a set of guidelines meant to stop interference by khap panchayats and said that the self-appointed village courts cannot stop a marriage between two consenting adults.
The Supreme Court has issued guidlines to prevent Khap Panchayats from stopping marriage.
New Delhi: Khap panchayats, the self-appointed village courts, cannot stop a marriage between two consenting adults, said the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling today. The top court laid down a set of guidelines meant to stop interference by khap panchayats that wield enormous influence in villages of several states and are often seen responsible for the growing number of honour killings in the country. The guidelines will be in place till the government comes up with a law, the court said.
A Look At Supreme Court Guidelines To Prevent Honour Killing
The Supreme Court has asked the state governments to identify districts, sub-divisions and/or villages where instances of honour killing or assembly of Khap Panchayats have been reported in the last five years.
Officer In-charge of the police stations of the identified areas need to be extra cautious if any instance of inter-caste or inter-religious marriage within their jurisdiction comes to their notice and should inform to his immediate superior officer and also intimate the jurisdictional Deputy Superintendent of Police and Superintendent of Police.
On receiving such information, the Deputy Superintendent of Police or a senior police officer should immediately interact with the members of the Khap Panchayat and impress upon them that convening of such meeting/gathering is not permissible in law and to eschew from going ahead with such a meeting.
Despite taking such measures, if the meeting is conducted, the Deputy Superintendent of Police should personally remain present during the meeting and impress upon the assembly meeting that no decision can be taken to cause any harm to the couple or the family members of the couple. If this fails, each one participating in the meeting besides the organisers would be personally liable for criminal prosecution.
The Deputy Superintendent of Police should also ensure that video recording of the discussion and participation of the members of the assembly meet is done on the basis of which the law -enforcing machinery can resort to suitable action.
If the Deputy Superintendent of Police, after interaction with the members of the Khap Panchayat, believes that the gathering cannot be prevented and/or is likely to cause harm to the couple or members of their family, he shall submit a proposal to the District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the District/ Competent Authority of the concerned area for issuing orders to take preventive steps under the CrPC and invoke prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC and also by causing arrest of the participants in the assembly under Section 151 CrPC.
The Home Department must take initiative and work in coordination with the state governments for sensitising the law enforcement agencies by involving all the stakeholders to meet the goal of social justice and the rule of law.
There should be an institutional machinery with the necessary coordination of all the stakeholders. The different state governments and the centre should work on sensitisation of the law enforcement agencies to mandate social initiatives and awareness to curb such violence.
Despite the preventive measures taken by the State Police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that the Khap Panchayat has taken place and it has passed any diktat to take action against a couple/family of an inter-caste or inter-religious marriage, the jurisdictional police official should immediately lodge an FIR under the appropriate provisions of the Indian Penal Code including Sections 141, 143, 503 read with 506 of IPC.
Upon registration of FIR, the Superintendent of Police/Deputy Superintendent of Police should be intimated who, in turn, should ensure that effective investigation of the crime is done.
Additionally, immediate steps should be taken to provide security to the couple/family and, if necessary, to remove them to a safe house within the same district or elsewhere keeping in mind their safety and threat perception.
The District Magistrate/Superintendent of Police must deal with the complaint regarding threat administered to such couple/family with utmost sensitivity. After the marriage, if the couple so desire, they can be provided accommodation on payment of nominal charges in the safe house for a period of one month to be extended on monthly basis but not exceeding one year in aggregate, depending on their threat assessment on case-to-case basis.
The initial inquiry regarding the complaint received from the couple should be entrusted by the District Magistrate/Superintendent of Police to an officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police. He shall conduct a preliminary inquiry and ascertain the authenticity, nature and gravity of threat perception. On being satisfied as to the authenticity of such threats, he should immediately submit a report to the Superintendent of Police in one week.
The District Superintendent of Police, upon receipt of such report, should direct the Deputy Superintendent of Police in-charge of the concerned sub-division to cause to register an FIR against the persons threatening the couples and, if necessary, invoke Section 151 of CrPC.
Additionally, the Deputy Superintendent of Police should personally supervise the progress of investigation and ensure that the same is completed.
Any failure by either the police or district officer/officials to comply with the aforesaid directions should be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which departmental action would be taken under the service rules. The departmental action shall be initiated and taken to its logical end, preferably not exceeding six months, by the authority of the first instance.
In terms of the ruling of this Court in Arumugam Servai (supra), the states are directed to take disciplinary action against the concerned officials if it is found that such official(s) did not prevent the incident, despite having prior knowledge of it, or where the incident had already occurred, such official(s) did not promptly apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits.
The State Governments should create special cells in every District comprising of the Superintendent of Police, the District Social Welfare Officer and District Adi-Dravidar Welfare Officer to receive petitions/complaints of harassment of and threat to couples of inter-caste marriage.
These special cells should create a 24-hour helpline to receive and register such complaints and to provide necessary assistance/advice and protection to the couple.
The criminal cases pertaining to honour killing or violence to the couple(s) shall be tried before the designated Court/Fast Track Court earmarked for that purpose. The trial must proceed on day-to-day basis to be concluded preferably within six months from the date of taking cognizance of the offence.