Supreme Court cracks down on tradition of "honour killings"

Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:55pm IST

Police look at the bodies of Sunita Devi (bottom L), 21, and her partner Jasbir Singh, 22, after they were killed by villagers in an ''honour killing'' in Ballah village in the northern Indian state of Haryana May 9, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Police look at the bodies of Sunita Devi (bottom L), 21, and her partner Jasbir Singh, 22, after they were killed by villagers in an ''honour killing'' in Ballah village in the northern Indian state of Haryana May 9, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer/Files

Related Topics

NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) - India's Supreme Court has called for an end to customary practices which promote "honour killings", saying the brutal tradition of parents killing their children to protect their so-called reputation is "barbaric" and "shameful".

Khap Panchayats -- community groups comprising elderly men which set the rules in Indian villages in regions such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan -- are often seen as instigating such murders in these highly traditional regions. Yet these village councils have no legal sanction.

Activists say cases of families lynching men and women,who engage in relationships with those of a different caste or religion, to salvage their perceived honour are widespread in India's conservative northwestern belt.

"We have in recent years heard of Khap Panchayats which often decree or encourage honour killings or other atrocities on men and women of different castes or religion, who wish to get married or have been married ..." said a bench comprising of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra on Tuesday.

"We are of the opinion that this is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out," said the two judges who were hearing a case of caste discrimination.

Any opposition to Khap Panchayats diktats are met with harsh punishment, including public beatings or ostracism. Political parties rarely speak out against these councils which form a major vote bloc for many of them.

Despite India's rapid modernisation and growing cosmopolitanism, which has been driven by accelerated economic growth, discrimination against low-caste communities known as Dalits and minority faiths such as Muslims persists in this predominately Hindu country.

The intermingling of caste and religion remains a taboo -- not only for largely rural illiterate populations, who have lived under a system of feudalism for centuries, but even for educated, well-off families in urban India.

In May last year, India's media highlighted the case of 22-year-old journalist Nirupama Pathak who allegedly was killed by her mother in their home in the eastern state of Jharkhand, after she was found to be pregnant by her lower caste boyfriend.

India's top court judges have now directed all administrative and police departments to ensure that couples in such relationships are not harassed or subjected to violence, adding that inter-caste marriages are in the national interest and would help dismantle India's age-old caste system.

"There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal-minded persons who deserve punishment," said the judgement. "Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism."

(TrustLaw is a global hub for free legal assistance and news and information on good governance and women’s rights run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, For more TrustLaw stories, visit www.trust.org/trustlaw)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
Gulbaaa wrote:
Village panchayats is a very old successful system of maintaining law and order in rural areas where people are not aware of legal rules neither the SC or local court or govt have any program to educate them. They understand the rules of this system and follow. These rules are made with thousands of years practical experience. Nowadays the rules are made by persons those never have any experience of situations. Social honour is our strength for which indians are recognised all over the world. Village ruling solves 90% of cases and that to in genuinely way, there only criminal is punished because they dont take brive as practised in legal courts. It is not like our so called courts, where there is no justice but only politics. In most of the cases, the poor is punished as he does not have any brive to pay. The rule breaking is more in the urban areas in comparison with the rural areas. Few incidents occur like this but judges talking against Village panchayats should look into their own deeds how fare are they? Punishing, even upto life sentence an innocent knowingly is not a cold blood murder?????? Think over it and save our society to spoil further. Stop being part in spoiling society. humbly requested. please.

Apr 20, 2011 9:37pm IST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Election 2014

REUTERS SHOWCASE

New Direction

New Direction

New CEO Nadella pushes data culture at Microsoft .  Full Article 

Rising Inflation

Rising Inflation

Food prices push inflation up, limit RBI's room to act.  Full Article 

Landmark Ruling

Landmark Ruling

Supreme Court recognises transgenders as third gender in landmark ruling.  Full Article 

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine launches 'gradual' operation, action limited.  Full Article 

IPL Boycott

IPL Boycott

News agencies to boycott IPL over photo restrictions.  Full Article 

Phone Security

Phone Security

Smartphone makers, carriers embrace anti-theft initiative.  Full Article 

Fuel Prices

Fuel Prices

IOC to cut petrol prices by 1.2 percent from Wednesday.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage