LAW COMMISSION REPORT NO 242
The idea underlying the provisions in the draft Bill is that there must be a threshold bar against congregation or assembly for the purpose of objecting to and condemning the conduct of young persons of marriageable age marrying according to their choice, the ground of objection being that they belong to the same gotra or to different castes or communities. The Panchayatdars or caste elders have no right to interfere with the life and liberty of such young couples whose marriages are permitted by law and they cannot create a situation whereby such couples are placed in a hostile environment in the village/locality concerned and exposed to the risk of safety. Such highhanded acts have a tendency to create social tensions and disharmony too. No frame of mind or belief based on social hierarchy can claim immunity from social control and regulation, in so far as such beliefs manifest themselves as agents of enforcement of right and wrong. The very assembly for an unlawful purpose viz. disapproving the marriage which is otherwise within the bounds of law and taking consequential action should be treated as an offence as it has the potential to endanger the lives and liberties of individuals concerned. The object of such an assembly is grounded on disregard for the life and liberty of others and such conduct shall be adequately tackled by penal law. This is without prejudice to the prosecution to be launched under the general penal law for the commission of offences including abetment and conspiracy.
Given the social milieu and powerful background of caste combines which bring to bear intense pressure on parents and relatives to go to any extent to punish the ‘sinning’ couples so as to restore the community honour, it has become necessary to deal with this fundamental problem. Any attempt to effectively tackle this socio-cultural phenomenon, rooted in superstition and authoritarianism, must therefore address itself to various factors and dimensions, viz, the nature and magnitude of the problem, the adequacy of existing law, and the wisdom in using penal and other measures of sanction to curb the power and conduct of caste combines. The law as it stands does not act either as a deterrence or as a sobering influence on the caste combinations and assemblies who regard themselves as being outside the pale of law. The socio-cultural outlook of the members of caste councils or Panchayats is such that they have minimal or scant regard for individual liberty and autonomy.