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Report No. 242

Sub: Unlawful interference of Caste Panchayats etc. with marriages in the name of honour: A suggested legislative framework Consultation paper

1. Incidents of murder and other grave offences committed against persons marrying or proposing to marry sagotras or outside their castes/religions are periodically reported. It is learnt that number of cases goes unreported for fear of reprisals or cascading effects. The intervention of caste/community assemblies in the name of 'Khap Panchayats', 'Katta Panchayats' etc. in the occurrence of these offences and other related incidents involving serious life and liberty consequences, are frequently noticed.

Such assemblies gathered on caste lines assume to themselves the power and authority to declare on and deal with 'objectionable' matrimonies and exhibit least regard for life and liberty and are not deterred by the processes of administration of justice. The penal law lacks direct application to the illegal acts of such caste assemblies and needs to be amended. Meanwhile innocent youth are harassed and victimized while such assemblies continue to wield unhindered authority and also seem to resist any suggestion of being subjected to any social control.

2. The pernicious practice of Khap Panchayats and the like taking law into their own hands and pronouncing on the invalidity and impropriety of Sagotra and inter-caste marriages and handing over punishment to the couple and pressurizing the family members to execute their verdict by any means amounts to flagrant violation of rule of law and invasion of personal liberty of the persons affected.

3. Sagotra marriages are not prohibited by law, whatever may be the view in olden times. The Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act, 1946 was enacted with a view to dispel any doubts in this regard. The Act expressly declared the validity of marriages between the Hindus belonging to the same 'gotra' or 'pravara' or different sub-divisions of same caste. The Hindu Marriage Act does not prohibit sagotra or inter-caste marriages.

4. The views of village elders or family elders cannot be forced on the willing couple and no one has a right to use force or impose far-reaching sanctions in the name of vindicating community honour or family honour. There are reports that drastic action including wrongful confinement, persistent harassment, mental torture, infliction of severe bodily harm is resorted to either by close relations or some third parties against the so- called erring couple either on the exhortations of some or all the Panchayatdars or with their connivance.

Social boycotts and other illegal sanctions affecting the young couple, the families and even a section of local inhabitants are quite often resorted to. The cumulative effect of all such acts have also public order dimensions.

5. In a very recent cas.- Arumugam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu [reported in (2011) 6 SCC 405], the Supreme Court strongly deprecated the practice of khap/katta panchayats taking law into their own hands and indulging in offensive activities which endanger the personal lives of the persons marrying according to their choice.

6. Some proposals are being mooted proposing amendments to Section 300 I.P.C. by way of including what is called 'Honour Killing' as murder and shifting the burden of proof to the accused. These proposals have been studied. The views from various quarters at an informal level have also been ascertained. After a preliminary examination of these and certain other models of law, a broad framework of proposed law to deal with the situation has been prepared and annexed herewith. The views of the public are invited with reference thereto.



Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances (in the name of Honour and Tradition) - A Suggested Legal Framework Back




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