“Har zarre par ek qaifiyat-e-neemshabi hai
Ai saaki-e-dauraan yeh gunahon ki ghadi hai”
– Firaq Gorakhpuri
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator by certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
American Declaration of Independence, 1776
We have in recent years heard of ‘Khap Panchayats’ (known as katta panchayats in Tamil Nadu) which often decree or encourage honour killings or other atrocities in an institutionalized way on boys and girls of different castes and religion, who wish to get married or have been married, or interfere with the personal lives of people. We are of the opinion that this is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out. As already stated in Lata Singh’s case (supra), there is nothing honourable in honour killing or other atrocities and, in fact, it is 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. Moreover, these acts take the law into their own hands, and amount to kangaroo courts, which are wholly illegal.
Hence, we direct the administrative and police officials to take strong measures to prevent such atrocious acts. If any such incidents happen, apart from instituting criminal proceedings against those responsible for such atrocities, the State Government is directed to immediately suspend the District Magistrate/Collector and SSP/SPs of the district as well as other officials concerned and chargesheet them and proceed against them departmentally if they do not (1) prevent the incident if it has not already occurred but they have knowledge of it in advance, or (2) if it has occurred, they do not promptly apprehend the culprits and others involved and institute criminal proceedings against them, as in our opinion they will be deemed to be directly or indirectly accountable in this connection.
The appellants in the present case have behaved like uncivilized savages, and hence deserve no mercy. With these observations the appeals are dismissed. Copy of this judgment shall be sent to all Chief Secretaries, Home Secretaries and Director Generals of Police in all States and Union Territories of India with the direction that it should be circulated to all officers up to the level of District Magistrates and S.S.P./S.P. for strict compliance. Copy will also be sent to the Registrar Generals/Registrars of all High Courts who will circulate it to all Hon’ble Judges of the Court.
J. (Markandey Katju)
J. (Gyan Sudha Misra)