The Supreme Court Tuesday held that diktats by ‘khap panchayats’ (caste councils) — aimed at coercing or committing atrocities on young boys and girls who wish to marry inter-caste/religion — were wholly illegal and should be ruthlessly stamped out.
‘We have, in recent years, heard of ‘Khap Panchayats’ (katta panchayats in Tamil Nadu) which often decree or encourage honour killings or other atrocities in an institutionalised way on boys and girls of different castes and religion, who wish to get married or have been married, or otherwise interfere with the personal lives of people,’ said the apex court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra.
‘We are of the opinion that this is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out,’ said Justice Katju speaking for the bench.
The court directed the registry to send the copy of the judgment to all chief secretaries, home secretaries and director generals of police in all states and union territories for circulation to all officers up to the level of district magistrates and senior superintendents of police/superintendents of police for strict compliance.
In the event of the official’s failure to take necessary steps for preventing such incidents from taking place, they should be placed under suspension and proceeded against departmentally, the judgment said.
Copy will also be sent to the registrar generals/registrars of all high courts who will circulate it to all judges of the court, the judgment said.
Referring to the earlier judgments of the apex court, the judgment said that there was ‘nothing honourable in honour killing or other atrocities’ and in fact, it was ‘nothing but barbaric and shameful murder’.
‘Other atrocities in respect of personal lives of people committed by brutal, feudal-minded persons deserve harsh punishment. Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism and feudal mentality,’ the judgment said.
It further said that these acts of taking law into their own hands amounts to kangaroo courts, which are wholly illegal.
Justice Katju started the judgment with a couplet from Firaq Gorakhpur: ‘Har zarre par ek qaifiyat-e-neemshabi hai/Ai saaki-e-dauraan yeh gunahon ki ghadi hai (Every particle has a condition of half-darkness/Oh cupbearer of the era, it is the time of crime).’
The court’s strong direction for ‘ruthlessly stamping’ out such tendencies and diktats of the khap panchayats came while upholding the conviction of Ajit Kumar, Arumugam Servai and others for assaulting Panneeselvam and Mahami during a temple festival, over differences on the method of tying bullocks in the Jallikattu.
Both Panneeselvam and Mahami were not only assaulted but even described as ‘pallapayal’ and eaters of meat of dead cows. Mahami suffered head injury, which doctors described was inflicted with a deadly intent.
The accused belong to the ‘servai’ caste, which is a backward caste, whereas the complainants belong to the ‘pallan’ caste, which is a Scheduled Caste in Tamil Nadu.
The appellants in the present case have behaved like uncivilized savages, and hence deserve no mercy, the judgment read.