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Honour Killing in India

Introduction

Honour Killing became a tradition in certain parts of India in the last decades. It is not only a red alert for unity in the diverse community residing in India but it also prioritizes the caste and gotra culture in the society. Different courts in the country in its jurisdiction clarified that an adult man and an adult woman are free to marry and to it, no third party has any right to harass and cause harm to them. In layman language, honour killing can be defined as the killing of a neighbour or relative especially a girl, man or woman who is having the charge to bring dishonour to the family. National crime record bureau declared around 251 cases of honour killing reported in the year 2015 as per their record. 1 which further increases to 300 in number for last three years in India and it has been noticed that such crime is taking place because some people believed this act to be a defensive step for the integrity of their families. The evil of honour killing has been mostly affected the northern part of our country where some people still believed that marrying a person outside their caste or religion and without the consent of the family is a dishonour towards the family and sometimes, they become so cruel that, people doing such marriages are subjected to death by their family members. Not only the northern part but some parts of southwestern India also became the victim of this criminal offence. Practise of honour killing can be noticed in the state of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh mostly. This practice is completely immoral because one who is killing a person just because he or she married another person who belongs to a different caste or religion simply conveys that a caste, gotra or religion is given more priority than a life of a person. Even after so many years of independence, people are placing the caste in a superior position than a life of a human being. In a democracy, where the people are having the absolute right to life practice of such an immoral act is a serious issue for the society which must be dealt with proper statutory provision to put an end to it.

The reason behind the practice:

A major reason behind honour killing is some people do not accept the practice of marrying a person out of the caste or gotra and as per their belief such practice will make their family status and decorum collusive in the society. The problem of honour killing is more of sociocultural issue than a legal issue. By statute, many of such crimes are restricted but they are still on in various parts of India. One of the major issues was raised in the case of Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India[1], where a PIL was filed highlighting the issue of Khap Panchayats which are caste courts in India and the caste leaders there exercises the supremacy and prescribe punishments to the couple fall in love or violates the traditional practices by marital relationship. Such bodies gotra centric and established to solve the problem arising among themselves. But by the passage of time, the caste leaders took the role and exercise supremacy over their group as custodian honour. Further, in the case of Laxmi Kachhawaha v. the State of Rajasthan[2] a PIL has been filed before the High Court of Rajasthan stating that the administration status of the Khap Panchayats in the state is unconstitutional especially for the women and girls belongs to a weaker section in the society. Further, it was alleged in the case that those authorities, irrespective of any norms of the society allowing divorce, handling legal disputes and imposing irrelevant penalties over the people belongs to their caste or group.

So, these types of authorities must be abolished to a certain extent to change the beliefs of the people belonging to those areas and as a result, the honour killing rate in India and especially for certain parts of the country will be abolished. The practice of endogamy marriage is the basic motive of such authorities, but such marriage not only creates a gap between different communities but also destroys the concept of unity in diversity in India.

Existing statutory provisions:

As per as the Indian Penal Code is concerned, section 299 to 304 of the code deals with any crime amounting to culpable homicide not amounting to murder and murder, and simultaneous punishments for the crimes has been prescribed here. It has been stated under the code that any act amounting to culpable homicide but not murder should be penalised with 10 years of imprisonment which may be extended to life imprisonment also and fine, and for murder, the person must be penalised with the death penalty, life imprisonment and fine. Further, if we proceed to section 307 of the IPC, it says a person who threatens another person to kill must be subjected to 10 years of imprisonment, and fine and if the person after giving threat injured the other person the punishment will be extended to life imprisonment. An honour killing can also be said to be a result of criminal conspiracy which is dealt with under section 120A and 120B of the IPC and, there is a common intention behind the whole activity which is well covered under 34 and 34 of IPC and penalizes several persons having common intention to commit a crime.[3] An honour killing is also subjected to abetment of murder by its very nature. So, the Indian Penal Code can be interpreted in various way while dealing with the crime of honour killing although special provision of honour killing is not included under the code separately.

Constitutional validity of Honour Killing:

When any person just because of their family belief or societal tradition and in honour of the family status kills any other human being, it shows how they are prioritizing the tradition and caste status over a lifetime. This can be taken as a severe violation of not only legal rights, but also basic fundamental rights provided under part III of the Constitution of India. Practise of honour killing is violative of the statutory provision under Article 14 that is right to equality and equal protection of the law and further Article 21 which guarantees the right to life and liberties. Again, if we look at the provision against discrimination under section 15(1) of the Constitution of India, it has been clearly mentioned there that one person shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, caste, religion, region, gender and place of birth. And honour killing is completely based on the grounds of discrimination. So, it is very clear that the practice of honour killing and power exercise by Khap panchayat in such a case is unconstitutional. The central government also proposed to make a separate provision for honour killing in IPC although punishment for murder is already prescribed under the code. Further, the Indian Majority Act, 1875 comes into play when Khap Panchayat forcefully exercises its power to split a couple who fallen in love and coming from two different castes, gotra or religion. And such practice is complete violative of the Indian Majority Act, 1875.

Landmark Judgement:

By the means of public interest litigation, petitioner in the case of Shakti Vahini v. Unuion of India[4] filed the writ petition under Article 32 of Indian constitution and seeking necessary steps and direction against the crime of honour killing from the state govt. and central govt. petitioner also highlighted the factors based on which honour crimes are practised. Petition stated that there are certain actions which triggered the practise of honour killing which includes loss of virginity out of marriage, premarital pregnancy, unapproved relationships, asking for divorce, falling victim to rape, demanding custody of children after divorce, ect. [5] Former CJI Deepak Mishra in this matter referred the 242nd law commission report which includes the concept of honour killing and honour crimes. He also referred the case of Lata Singh v. State of U.P. and another[6], whereby the means of a writ of certiorari/ mandamus protection has been provided to the petitioner and her husband who were in severe and continuous danger of honour crime and could be a victim of the same. The court also dealt with this case under the ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and held that the choice of a person belongs to the right to life with dignity and the same if obstructed then the meaning of dignity will have no value in the provision of Article 21. Defendant although argued that khap Panchayats are established for the purpose of spreading awareness of ‘sapinda’ and ‘sagotra’ marriages but the court rejected the contention by saying the matrimonial issues will be dealt with by the court itself and will provide a strong mechanism to look after the same so Khap Panchayats are not required to look after all these matters.

Conclusion:

After 70 years of India’s independence also, some parts of it are facing the evil of honour crime. Time and again, laws are amended for the purpose of governing honour killing in India. Even several courts in their jurisdiction try to resolve the issues related to it. If we clearly notice the reason behind such crimes, we will find out that based on certain beliefs and tradition of the society people opts for these crimes. Awareness is still lagging in some parts of India, proper education and awareness about honour crimes and their effect has not been communicated to some people. Khap Panchayat being the major point of dispute while dealing with honour crimes, must be abolished from the country because there is no need for such authorities which violates the provisions of the Indian constitution and at the same time infringes fundamental rights from the citizen of the country. Former CJI Deepak Mishra also stated that the choice of an individual is a part of dignity, and two adults are having complete freedom to marry each other. There are provisions under the special marriage Act to govern the marriage between parties coming from different religions and castes so, authorities like Khap Panchayats must not interfere with such marriage. There was never any bar for the practice of Inter caste marriage rather it is helpful to uphold communal harmony in India. It is the belief of certain uneducated and unaware person which acting as a bar for exercising inter caste and inter religion marriage. One has no right to kill any person who is deemed to commit dishonour towards his/her family. People must be aware of the fact that a caste, religion or gotra is not superior to life. There should be a number of campaigns and other social activities to spread the social message and awareness about honour killing in India.

References:

  1. Honour killings in India ‘soar by nearly 800 per cent’ as leading activisits call for more action to tackle rising crime Daily Mail Online, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-4010700/Honour-killings-India-soar-nearly-800-cent-leading-activisits-call-action-tackle-rising-crime.html (last visited May 5, 2021)

  2. Shakti Vahini v. Union of India Indian Legal Solution, https://indianlegalsolution.com/shakti-vahini-v-union-of-india/ (last visited May 5, 2021)

  3. Laxmi Kachhawaha v. State of Rajasthan,

  4. Honour killings in India and need for urgent reforms and new laws ipleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/honour-killings-india-need-urgent-reforms-new-laws/ (last visited May 6, 2021)

  5. Shakti Vahini v. Union of India Indian Legal Solution, https://indianlegalsolution.com/shakti-vahini-v-union-of-india/ (last visited May 5, 2021)
  6. Honour killings in India and need for urgent reforms and new laws ipleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/honour-killings-india-need-urgent-reforms-new-laws/ (last visited May 6, 2021)
This article has been written by Arindam Shit. He is a 2nd year BBALLB student at Alliance University.

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