Honour Killings in India

honour killingLakshmi Anusha

Honour killings and honour related violence is a neglected area in criminology. Human Rights Watch, an NGO in New York has defined Honor killing as, “Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, mostly committed by male family members predominantly against female [relatives], who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by individuals within her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce even from an abusive husband, or (allegedly) committing adultery .The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a specific way to “dishonour” her family, is sufficient to trigger an attack.” The loose term of Honour killings applies to both males and females that practice it.

The most obvious reason for this practice to continue in India is because of the fact that the caste system continues to be at its rigid best and also because people from the rural areas refuse to change their attitude towards marriage. due to the interference of Khap Panchayats generally consist of powerful elements of a dominant caste. These Khap Panchayats assume themselves to have Power and authority to deal with the ‘objectionable  Matrimonies’ and hence, give their ‘verdicts’ and even pressurize their family members to execute their verdicts which directly intervenes Articles 14, 15(1), 15(3) and Article 21 ensured in the Constitutional Provisions as Honour Killings effect right to live, right to move freely, right to equality and right to security. So far the crimes of honor killing have been dealt with, under Section 300 of the Indian Penal code, i.e. for commission of murder with life sentence, death or fine, Section 307, i.e. attempt to murder, Section 120 A and B for being party to criminal conspiracy and Sections 107-116 for abetment of offences such as murder or culpable homicide

Alarmed with the raise in the Honour Killings Government of India proposed a Bill in the year 2010 to include Honour Killings in Section 300 of IPC and also suggested that onus of proving the innocence lies on the Accused.  But the 242nd Law Commission Report recommended a bill entitled “The Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly ( Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2011 which prohibited a person or any group of person from gathering,assembling or congregating at any time with the view or intention of condemning any marriage, not prohibited by Law.” However the Commission did not find it appropriate to suggest an amendment to Section 300 of the IPC to include honour killing as a separate offence.

Judicial Intervention in the Field of Honour Killings:

In Lata Singh v. State Of  U.P. the apex court held that ” In our opinion, such acts of violence of threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severely punished. This is a free and democratic country and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve such inter caste or inter religious marriage, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or daughter, but they cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter caste or inter religious marriage.”

In Arumugam Servai vs. State of Tamil Nadu (2011) 6 SCC 405 , the Supreme Court strongly deprecated the practice of khap/katta panchayats taking law into their own hands and indulging in offensive activities which endanger the personal lives of the persons marrying according to their choice.

It is pertinent to note that the Supreme Court in Bhagwan Das vs State (NCT Of Delhi) ,(2011) 6 SCC 405 had opined that “Honor Killing for whatever reason would come under the rarest of rare case deserving death penalty.”

This Logic of maintaining caste order by preventing inter caste marriages and further debarring Intra Caste marriages which are sagotra severely limits the freedom to freely choose ones partners. These practices have no legal sanctions under Hindu Marriage Act. This further unduly emphasizes a woman’s Honour thereby encouraging not just control of sexuality but also her marital choice, by stigmatizing inter-caste marriages.

Conclusions andSuggestions:

It is felt that there have to be separate act/ legislation for the Honour Killings as per the recommendations of the Law Commissions as it is a Socio Legal Issue and therefore there is a need to draft a separate and stringent law along with thorough quantum of sentencing for ‘Honour Killings so as to combat this evil in this society before it takes an ugly turn. And there should be

  1. Deterrent modes of punishments should be invited and scales of punishments should be invited.
  2. Set up of special cells in each district has to be established so that couples can approach those cells for safety.
  3. Procedural Law Provisions and Linency to grant Bails should be eschewed.