Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:

“When the ability to choose is crushed in the name of class honour and the person’s physical frame is treated with absolute indignity, a chilling effect dominates over the brains and bones of the society at large.” – Dipak Misra, CJI

These were the opening words by CJI in the judgment that stated elaborate preventive, remedial and punitive measures to meet the challenges of the agonising effect of honour crime.

When the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ sat for answering the question as to whether the elders of the family or clan can ever be allowed to proclaim a verdict guided by some notion of passion and eliminate the life of the young who have exercised their choice to get married against the wishes of their elders or contrary to the customary practice of the clan, it held that the answer has to be an emphatic “No” and recommended the legislature to bring law appositely covering the field of honour killing. It further said:

“Class honour, howsoever perceived, cannot smother the choice of an individual which he or she is entitled to enjoy under our compassionate Constitution. And this right of enjoyment of liberty deserves to be continually and zealously guarded so that it can thrive with strength and flourish with resplendence.”

Stating that no authority has been conferred upon Khap Panchayats or any such assemblies under any law, the Bench explained:

“when a crime under IPC is committed, an assembly of people cannot impose the punishment. They have no authority. They are entitled to lodge an FIR or inform the police. They may also facilitate so that the accused is dealt with in accordance with law. But, by putting forth a stand that they are spreading awareness, they really can neither affect others’ fundamental rights nor cover up their own illegal acts. It is simply not permissible. In fact, it has to be condemned as an act abhorrent to law and, therefore, it has to stop. Their activities are to be stopped in entirety. There is no other alternative. What is illegal cannot commend recognition or acceptance.”

It was, however, made clear that an assembly or Panchayat committed to engage in any constructive work that does not offend the fundamental rights of an individual will not stand on the same footing of Khap Phanchayat.

Directing the State Governments to implement it’s directions within 6 weeks, the Bench enumerated the following steps to check the menace of honour killings ordered by the Khap Panchayats:

Preventive Steps:

  • The State Governments should identify Districts, Sub-Divisions and/or Villages where instances of honour killing or assembly of Khap Panchayats have been reported in the recent past, e.g., in the last five years.
  • If information about any proposed gathering of a Khap Panchayat comes to the knowledge of any police officer or any officer of the District Administration, he shall inform his immediate superior officer and also simultaneously intimate the jurisdictional Deputy Superintendent of Police and Superintendent of Police.
  • The Deputy Superintendent of Police shall then immediately interact with the members of the Khap Panchayat and impress upon them that convening of such meeting/gathering is not permissible in law and to eschew from going ahead with such a meeting.
  • Despite taking such measures, if the meeting is conducted, the Deputy Superintendent of Police shall personally remain present during the meeting and impress upon the assembly that no decision can be taken to cause any harm to the couple or the family members of the couple, failing which each one participating in the meeting besides the organisers would be personally liable for criminal prosecution.
  • If the Deputy Superintendent of Police, after interaction with the members of the Khap Panchayat, has reason to believe that the gathering cannot be prevented and/or is likely to cause harm to the couple or members of their family, he shall forthwith submit a proposal to the District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the District/ Competent Authority of the concerned area for issuing orders to take preventive steps under the Cr.P.C., including by invoking prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr.P.C. and also by causing arrest of the participants in the assembly under Section 151 Cr.P.C.

Remedial Steps:

  • Despite the preventive measures taken by the State Police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that the Khap Panchayat has taken place and it has passed any diktat, the jurisdictional police official shall cause to immediately lodge an F.I.R. under the appropriate provisions of the Penal Code including Sections 141, 143, 503 read with 506 of IPC.
  • Additionally, immediate steps should be taken to provide security to the couple/family and, if necessary, to remove them to a safe house within the same district or elsewhere keeping in mind their safety and threat perception. The State Government may consider of establishing a safe house at each District Headquarter for that purpose.
  • The District Magistrate/Superintendent of Police must deal with the complaint regarding threat administered to such couple/family with utmost sensitivity. It should be first ascertained whether the bachelor-bachelorette are capable adults. Thereafter, if necessary, they may be provided logistical support for solemnising their marriage and/or for being duly registered under police protection, if they so desire. After the marriage, if the couple so desire, they can be provided accommodation on payment of nominal charges in the safe house initially for a period of one month to be extended on monthly basis but not exceeding one year in aggregate, depending on their threat assessment on case to case basis.
  • The initial inquiry regarding the complaint received from the couple (bachelor-bachelorette or a young married couple) or upon receiving information from an independent source that the relationship/marriage of such couple is opposed by their family members/local community/Khaps shall be entrusted by the District Magistrate/ Superintendent of Police to an officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police. He shall conduct a preliminary inquiry and ascertain the authenticity, nature and gravity of threat perception. On being satisfied as to the authenticity of such threats, he shall immediately submit a report to the Superintendent of Police in not later than one week.
  • The District Superintendent of Police, upon receipt of such report, shall direct the Deputy Superintendent of Police incharge of the concerned sub-division to cause to register an F.I.R. against the persons threatening the couple(s) and, if necessary, invoke Section 151 of Cr.P.C.
  • In the course of investigation, the concerned persons shall be booked without any exception including the members who have participated in the assembly. If the involvement of the members of Khap Panchayat comes to the fore, they shall also be charged for the offence of conspiracy or abetment, as the case may be.

Punitive Steps:

  • Any failure by either the police or district officer/officials to comply with the aforesaid directions shall be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which departmental action must be taken under the service rules. The departmental action shall be initiated and taken to its logical end, preferably not exceeding six months, by the authority of the first instance.
  • The States must take disciplinary action against the concerned officials if it is found that (i) such official(s) did not prevent the incident, despite having prior knowledge of it, or (ii) where the incident had already occurred, such official(s) did not promptly apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits.
  • The State Governments shall create Special Cells in every District comprising of the Superintendent of Police, the District Social Welfare Officer and District Adi-Dravidar Welfare Officer to receive petitions/complaints of harassment of and threat to couples of inter-caste marriage.
  • These Special Cells shall create a 24-hour helpline to receive and register such complaints and to provide necessary assistance/advice and protection to the couple.
  • The criminal cases pertaining to honour killing or violence to the couple(s) shall be tried before the designated Court/Fast Track Court earmarked for that purpose. The trial must proceed on day to day basis to be concluded preferably within six months from the date of taking cognizance of the offence. This direction shall apply even to pending cases.

[Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 275, decided on 27.03.2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ rebuked the Central Government for failing to put in a place a mechanism to monitor the honour killings ordered by Khap Panchayats and said that any attack by khap panchayats or associations against an adult man and woman opting for inter- caste marriage was “absolutely illegal”.

Asking Centre to give its reponse on suggestions earlier given by amicus curiae 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, the Court said:

“if an adult girl or boy get into marriage, no khap, no individual or no society can question them.”

The Court was hearing the PIL filed by the NGO Shakti Vahini in 2010 seeking directions to the central and state governments to prevent and control honour crimes by taking a number of measures.

The Court will now hear the matter on 05.02.2018.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: In a case of inter-caste marriage, the Court directed the  Senior Superintendent of Police concerned to provide necessary and immediate protection to the couple if anyone disturbs their peaceful living.

The petitioners approached the Court seeking a writ of Mandamus in order to prevent the respondents from interfering in their peaceful married life. The petitioners contended that they are adults and married each other of their own free will but they have being harassed for that.

The Court accepted the precedent set in previous cases and observed that if the persons getting married are major and are marrying of their own free will then the parents of such persons can only cut them off socially. They have no right to harass or commit violence. There is no ‘honour’ to be found in ‘honour killing’. Therefore any person involved in such acts shall be sternly prosecuted. The Court further directed the petitioners to register their marriage under the Uttar Pradesh Marriages Registration Rules, 2017 within two months from the date of this order, failing which the order would stand vacated. [Babita @ Roji v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine All 1993, decided on 05.09.2017]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and SA Bobde, J refused to interfere with the order in Vikas Yadav v. State of U.P., (2016) 9 SCC 541, where the court had imposed 25 years imprisonment, without remission, on Vikas and Vishal Yadav for brutally murdering their sister’s lover Nitish Katara. Vikas Yadav had sought review of the punishment imposed upon him.

On 03.10.2016, the bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ  had noticed that the crime was committed in a planned and cold blooded manner with the motive that has emanated due to feeling of some kind of uncalled for and unwarranted superiority based on caste that has blinded the thought of “choice available” to a sister – a representative of women as a class. The deceased was burnt to such a point that his own mother could only suggest the identification from the small size of one unburnt palm with fingers of the hand that the body appeared to be that of her deceased son. terming the offence to be one of ‘honour killing’, the Court had said:

“Neither the family members nor the members of the collective have any right to assault the boy chosen by the girl.”

Vikas Yadav was also prosecuted in “Jesica Lal murder case” and he committed the crime in the present case while he was out on bail. [Vikas Yadav v. State of UP, REVIEW PETITION (CRL.) NOS.268-270 OF 2017, decided on 29.08.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: In a case of inter-caste marriage, the Court directed the  Senior Superintendent of Police concerned to provide necessary and immediate protection to the couple if anyone disturbs their peaceful living.

The petitioners approached the Court seeking a writ of Mandamus in order to prevent the respondents from interfering in their peaceful married life. The petitioners are adults and married each other of their own free will but they have been harassed for that.

The Court accepted the precedent set in previous cases and observed that if the persons getting married are major and are marrying of their own free will then the parents of such persons can only cut them off socially. They have no right to harass or commit violence. There is no ‘honour’ to be found in ‘honour killing’. Therefore any person involved in such acts shall be sternly prosecuted. The Court further directed the petitioners to register their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. [Amna Begum v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine All 1798, decided on 02.08.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the infamous Nitish Katara Murder case, the Bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ  upheld the order of the Delhi High Court imposing a punishment of imprisonment of 25 and 20 years for the offence under Section 302 IPC on Vikas and Vishal Yadav and Sukhdev Yadav, respectively, and 5 years for offence under Section 201 IPC, however, the High Court’s stipulation that both the sentences would run consecutively was modified and it was directed that both the sentences would run concurrently.

It was argued by the appellant that the fixed term imposed by the High Court curtails the power of remission after fourteen years as envisaged under Section 433-A CrPC. The High Court had not directed that the sentence under Section 201/34 IPC shall run first and, thereafter, the fixed term sentence will commence. State had contended that the Court should modify the sentence and direct that the appellants shall suffer rigorous imprisonment for the offence punishable under Section 201/34 IPC and, thereafter, suffer the fixed term sentences. The Court, however, refused to do so and instead directed that the sentence imposed for the offence punishable under Section 201/34 IPC shall run concurrently with the sentence imposed for other offences by the High Court.

It was also contended that there was a non-application of mind by the High Court while imposing the sentence, for two accused persons have been sentenced for twenty-five years and Sukhdev, the other appellant, has been sentenced to twenty years. The Court, however, rejected this contention and said that the High Court, while dealing with Vikas Yadav and Vishal Yadav had opined that they had misused the process of law while in jail and in their conduct there is no sign of any kind of remorse or regret. As far as the Sukhdev is concerned, the High Court had taken his conduct in jail which had been chastened and punishment was imposed once. The High Court had taken note of the fact that Sukhdev was the employee of the father of Vikas Yadav and he is a married man with five children and on account of his incarceration, his family is in dire stress. On the basis of these facts and circumstances, the High Court had drawn a distinction and imposed slightly lesser sentence in respect of Sukhdev and hence, the imposition of fixed term sentence on the appellants by the High Court cannot be found fault with.

In the present case, deceased was murdered by the appellants for his involvement with their sister. The Court said that crime was committed in a planned and cold blooded manner with the motive that has emanated due to feeling of some kind of uncalled for and unwarranted superiority based on caste that has blinded the thought of “choice available” to a sister – a representative of women as a class. The deceased was burnt to such a point that his own mother could only suggest the identification from the small size of one unburnt palm with fingers of the hand that the body appeared to be that of her deceased son. The identification had to be confirmed by DNA testing. It is demonstrable about the criminal proclivity of the accused persons, for they have neither the respect for human life nor did they have any concern for the dignity of a dead person.

Terming the offence to be one of ‘honour killing’, the Court said that one may feel “My honour is my life” but that does not mean sustaining one’s honour at the cost of another. Neither the family members nor the members of the collective have any right to assault the boy chosen by the girl. Her individual choice is her self-respect and creating dent in it is destroying her honour. And to impose so called brotherly or fatherly honor or class honor by eliminating her choice is a crime of extreme brutality, more so, when it is done under a guise, it is a vice, condemnable and deplorable perception of “honour”, comparable to medieval obsessive assertions.

Vikas Yadav was also prosecuted in “Jesica Lal murder case” and he committed the crime in the present case while he was out on bail. [Vikas Yadav v. State of U.P.2016 SCC OnLine SC 1088 , decided on 03.10.2016]

High Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Expressing concern over the rising number of “honour killing” cases in the States of Punjab and Haryana and dealing with yet another case highlighting the gruesome offence, K. Kanan, J., issued directives to the State Police to ensure that complaints of honour killings are looked after with sincerity and are dealt expeditiously. The Court also directed the Director General of Police to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by senior police personnel to address the grievance of the petitioner. The Court in its concluding note observed that public confidence in the police would return only if it is ensured that the investigation would be free from any local influence.

As per the facts, the present case came up before the Court as the aggrieved petitioner pleaded for a fair investigation by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) into the honour killing of his wife. Tanu Bedi, appearing for the petitioner argued that honour killing is a crime of a different genre, therefore free and fair investigation by a high ranking officer is the most feasible option. Keshav Gupta, appearing for the respondent, however argued that the current course of investigation is satisfactory.  

The Court observed instances revealing the extreme laxity of the police while conducting the investigations. The Court relied on the 242 Report of the Law Commission and the Supreme Court decision in Bhagwan Dass v. State (NCT) of Delhi, (2011) 6 SCC 396, where it was held that honour killings belong to the category of “rarest of the rare” cases. It was observed that honour killing is one such crime where the parents become the perpetrators of crime against their progeny as they are pressurized by the social diktats issued by the Khaps. The Court further observed that promotion of inter-caste marriages is a healthy solution for social transformation. In the light of the gravity of the offence and lamenting upon the callous attitude of the administration and failure of judiciary to curb the menace, the Court thus issued directions namely- to establish separate cells in every police station to deal with honour killing complaints; police to keep an army of “friends of people” from amongst progressive minded people in every village or group of villages; police must not compel the adult couples to go back to their parents if any one of them apprehends physical threat; every case suspected to be of honour killing shall be considered for entrustment to a high power officer for investigation not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police and under the direct supervision of SSP. Manmeet Singh v. State of Haryana, 2015 SCC OnLine P&H 222, decided on 23.02.2015