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“Honour killing” in the name of “Honour”

Honour killing can also be called as customary killing which is a murder of a person in a family or a social group by other persons, as they believe that the victim has brought dishonour to their family or their community.  Usually such honour killings are done towards the girls of the family or the society 1.  Honour Killing can strike fear into the heart of many people particularly inter-caste, inter-community or inter-religious couples who want to start a family by getting married.  Such killing usually happens when someone dares to challenge the norms of the society and marry against the wishes of the family or community and this exist widely in many villages even in this era in India.2  Although India’s population has grown so vast, and with the growth of economic development and the advent of western technology, many Indians still have to accept the liberalisation in the Indian culture and western influence should be added in the Indian society which the present generation are trying to imitate to a great extent.3

In India honour killing is majorly reported in the northern regions of the country like in states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttarakhand, in this Punjab and Haryana can be said to be the most notorious states in relation to Honour Killings4.  These states mark poor sex ratio and high incidence of gender inequality.  In Haryana the moment a young person decides to marry on his/her own choice the family’s honour arises, but the same honour does not get such importance when anyone in their family face trial for dowry death, rape charges etc.  The law seems ill-equipped to deal with enormity of such crimes in these states as honour killings are very much rampant5.  Khap leaders who are a handful of self-appointed protectors of purity of Jat community in Haryana and who consider themselves as demigods in the village and their word is law and if anyone digresses it they will be punished severely.

In a recent case of honour killing 3 persons were arrested for allegedly strangling a 20 year old man and hacking his body to pieces and throwing it in the Yamuna river in Nangli village and when police arrived to the scene they found only the weapons used in murder but could not find the remains of the dead body.  The dead person was in a relationship with a girl, whose brother was the accused person along with his cousin and uncle hatched the murder of the boy. The 3 accused are farmers and reside at Bakhtarpur village.  When police visited the crime spot they recovered the spade and blood soaked clothes and thus a murder case was registered against the 3 accused6.

One of the famous case that went viral all over India in relation to Honour killing was Manoj and Babli’s murder by their own family members as they did not approve their marriage because they had married within the same gotra and so they were killed near a toll plaza.  Khap panchayat had plotted the murder of Manoj and Babli in Kaithal District 7.

There are many misconceptions in relation to the practice of honour killing, one of it is that it is practiced only in rural areas but the truth is that it is widespread all over and we cannot isolate it to only rural areas.  Honour killings can also be found in metro cities of Delhi and Tamil Nadu too.  In India there are no separate provisions in CRPC or IPC to deal with these kind of cases of honour killing.

Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances (in the name of Honour and Tradition): A Suggested Legal Framework is a report by Law Commission of India which was brought out in August 2012.  This Bill was intended to curb the social evil of the caste council or panchayats who interfered by endangering the life and liberty of youngsters who married in same gotra or different caste.  Such honour crimes had to be effectively checked by prohibiting the assembly of members of panchayats to condemn the marriage and harm the married couples.

Changing cultural and economic status of women has helped some women going against the male dominated society and thus has led to such honour crimes in the country.  Pre-marital relationship or assertion of right to marry as per their wish is one of the widely known cause for honour killing in many places 8.  Many innocent youths are harassed and victimized in the name of honour killing in many places of India even today.

In another recent case Arumugam Servai vs. State of Tamil Nadu [reported in (2011) 6 SCC 405] Supreme Court had strongly condemned the practice of Khap panchayats taking law into their own hands and endangering the personal lives who married as per their wish 9.

The persons who are directly involved in such heinous acts of violence are part of the community and will be members of the family concerned in the case of objected marriage.  The practice of Khap panchayats who likely take law into their own hands and pronounce that the inter-caste marriages and inter-religious marriages that happens in the villages as invalid and improper which amounts to violation of rule of law and invades personal liberty of the affected persons.  Elders of the village and family cannot force the willing couple not to marry and no one has a right to impose sanctions in the name of family honour.  These so called saviours of customs in the village, punish the erring couples in many ways including wrongful confinement, mental torture, threats to severe bodily harm and harassment.  Social boycotts and illegal sanctions also are afflicted on the families of the erring couples 10.

The National Commission for Women has drafted a Bill titled “Prevention of Crimes in the name of Honour and Tradition” and this bill is closer to law proposed by Law Commission.  It suggests certain prohibitive and penal measures and also record the declaration of an intended marriage to seek protection from harassment that can be caused to woman and her partner 11.  Organising counselling programs in the village community can also help in curbing honour crimes/killings.  Many spiritual leaders can also form part of such counselling and village gatherings and explain to people to shed the superstitious practices that exist in relation to such inter-caste marriages.  Media can also play a vital role in shaping the mind set of people in relation to such marriages.  Supreme Court had said in one of its decisions that so called honour killing comes under the category of rarest of rare cases and so it deserves death punishment to the accused persons 12.

The Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act, 1946 which was enacted to dispel doubts regarding sagotra marriages between Hindus belonging to same gotra and Hindu Marriage Act does not prohibit sagotra marriages.  Many proposals are being mooted on amending Section 300 of I P C to include Honour Killing as murder and shifting the burden of proof to the accused and these proposals are yet studied.  Panchayats do not have any right to interfere with the life and liberty of young persons who wish to marriage as per their wish which is permitted by law.  The highhanded acts of these panchayats have a tendency to create social tensions.

By Sushma Javare

  1. Honour Killing in India accessed on 24 March 2015
  2. Murder for the sake of Honour accessed on 24 March 2015
  3. Id.
  4. Id.
  5. Till honour do them part accessed on 24 March 2015
  6. Three held for ‘honour killing’ of 20-yr-old accessed on 25 March 2015
  7. They Died For Honour accessed on 25 March 2015
  8. Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances (in the name of Honour and Tradition) A Suggested Legal Framework accessed on 25 March 2015
  9. Id.
  10. Id.
  11. Id.
  12. Id.