New Delhi: The Supreme Court today termed as “absolutely illegal” any attack by khap panchayats or associations against an adult man and woman opting for inter-caste marriage.
The apex court said if an adult man and woman marry, no khap, panchayat, individual or society can question them. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked the Centre to give its reponse on suggestions earlier given by amicus curiae (friend of the court) Raju Ramachandran on ways to prevent harassment and killing of young couples in the name of family honour for marrying inter-caste or intra-clan (gotra).
“Whatever the amicus curiae says about khap, we are not concerned with that. What we are concerned is that if an adult girl or boy gets into marriage, no khap, no individual or no society can question them,” the bench said. The bench told the Centre that it will not give its suggestion on the suggestion given by amicus curiae, assisting the court in the matter, and the court would contemplate passing an order based on the amicus’ suggestion.
“Whenever there is any kind of collective attack on a boy or girl who are adult, it is absolutely illegal,” the bench said and listed the matter for February 5 for further hearing. The apex court had earlier sought suggestions from an NGO ‘Shakti Vahini’, amicus curiae and ‘Khap Panchayats’ on the issue.
Khaps are caste or community organisations in villages which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce harsh punishments based on regressive and age-old customs and traditions. The NGO had moved the top court in 2010 seeking directions to the central and state governments to prevent and control honour crimes by taking a number of measures.
Earlier, the apex court had invited ‘Khap Panchayats’ to hear their views before issuing any order to stop them from harassing and killing couples and women in the name of honour. The Centre had pleaded with the apex court to put in place a mechanism to monitor crimes against women by Khap Panchayats, as the police was not able to protect women facing ordeal at their hands.
The top court had also said that as a pilot project, it would examine the situation in three districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where Khap Panchayats were active. It had summoned the Superintendents of Police of Rohtak and Jind districts of Haryana and that of Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh to apprise the court of the situation there.