DHANANJAY MAHAPATRA IN THE TIMES OF INDIA
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday said it intended to lay down guidelines to curb khap panchayat-dictated violence against couples marrying inter-caste or in same gotra till the government enacted a suitable legislation to deal with the menace.
Dealing with a PIL detailing the violence in various states, mainly in northern India, directed at the behest of khap panchayats, a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai said till the government enacted a legislation, a draft of which has been submitted by the Law Commission, a guidelines on the foot steps of Vishaka judgment would fill the legal void.
“On the lines of Vishaka judgment, till such time legislation is enacted, we will issue whatever direction which is legal and proper,” the bench said and suggested that the guidelines could be implemented as a pilot project in few of the worst affected districts where khap dictated violence against matrimonial alliances had been recurring.
For this purpose, petitioner Shakti Vahini’s counsel Ravi Kant suggested Haryana districts of Jind and Rohtak and Baghpat in western Uttar Pradesh. The bench summoned the Additional Director General of Police (law and order), Haryana and Inspector General of Police, Meerut Zone, along with the Superintendents of Police of the three districts to the court on January 14 to discuss framing of guidelines and their implementation.
The Vishaka judgment, delivered on August 13, 1997, by a bench of then CJI J S Verma and Justices Sujata V Manohar and B N Kirpal, laid down guidelines for government and private employers to stop sexual harassment of women at work places. The guidelines still hold good as the law of the land as no legislation had been enacted on this issue even after 15 years.
Additional solicitor general Indira Jaising supported laying down of guidelines by the court till a legislation was enacted but stressed that NGOs and social activists, who were instrumental in successful implementation of Vishaka guidelines, needed to be involved in monitoring the police action to prevent crimes against couples marrying against the wish of their parents or against the dictates of khaps.
Jaising said the government had received representation from various khap panchayats demanding amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act to ban ‘sagotra’ marriages, but the Centre had rejected their demand.
When amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran suggested a moderate approach, the bench said, “We do not want to delay the matter any longer.” However, it said in a judicial proceeding it was imperative that the views of the khap panchayats were heard.
“We are getting the views on khap panchayats from those who are adverse to them. We may share the views but we must hear from them about their views on this issue. We may at the end of the day reject their views as unconstitutional. But it will be more satisfying in a judicial proceedings if the khaps were heard more so because all the parties before the court are hostile to them,” the bench said.
Petitioner’s counsel Ravi Kant said he had been researching in the three worst affected districts and would be able to send the message to two prominent khaps – Meham Chaubisi and Sarv Khap Panchayat – that the court intended to hear their views.