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.

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Khap Panchayat Verdict: A Look At Supreme Court Guidelines To Prevent Honour Killing

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Additionally, the Deputy Superintendent of Police should personally supervise the progress of investigation and ensure that the same is completed.  
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.


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