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Khaps can’t tell adults whom to marry: Supreme Court

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Feb 6, 2018, 1:29 am IST
Updated : Feb 6, 2018, 1:30 am IST

The committee will be mandated to keep couples safe from any violence directed by khaps panchayats, parents or relatives, the court hinted.

Supreme Court of India. (Photo: PTI)
 Supreme Court of India. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Observing that khap panchayats cannot play “conscience keeper of the society” and take law into their hands, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to protect couples whose marriages are objected to by khaps and hinted that the court may appoint a police committee to protect couples who opt for inter-caste or inter-faith alliances.

The committee will be mandated to keep couples safe from any violence directed by khaps panchayats, parents or relatives, the court hinted.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra told counsel Narinder Hooda, who appeared for the Sarv Khap Panchayats of Rohtak, “Where two consenting adults agree to enter into matrimony, no individual rights, group rights or collective rights shall interfere therein or harass couple. You don’t have to play the conscience keeper of the society. Law and courts will take care of all relationships. Whether it is parents, society or anyone, they are out of it.”

The bench, which also included Justices A.M. Kanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, was hearing a petition filed by NGO Shakti Vahini in 2010 seeking the court’s intervention to stop the
menace of honour killing by khap panchayats opposed to inter-caste marriages. It sought directions to the Centre and state governments to prevent crimes committed in the name of honour.

Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said that the government will submit its proposals within a week.

Mr Hooda earlier submitted that the “main culprits of honour killings are not the representatives of khaps but the near and dear ones of the affected couples and more so the relatives of the girls”.

He said the killings take place when family members of such couples cannot resist social pressure and taunts of their relatives over inter-caste marriages.

“Any effort to regulate the khaps’ conduct and role will not have any impact on the incidents of honour killings,” said Mr Hooda.

He claimed khaps are not against marriages involving couples from different castes, religions, creed or regions. “They are only against same gotra marriages for which they had made a representation to the Central government seeking an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which was a democratic act. Religious scriptures had prohibited such marriages and as such it should become part of law,” he said.

The CJI retorted, “Law will take its own course. Who are you to interfere?”

“We are conscience keepers,” said counsel, to which the CJI quipped, “When two adults get married, it is for the law to declare the marriage null and void and khaps cannot resort to violence against the couple.”

The apex court also mulled over the idea of a police authority, on the lines of the one commissioned to end cow vigilantism, to keep couples safe.

The CJI said that the court is considering appointing a high-level police committee to devise ways to protect couples in inter-caste, inter-faith, or similarly “opposed” alliances. The bench posted the matter for next hearing on February 16.

Tags: supreme court, dipak misra, khap panchayats