NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
A spate of murders and dishonourable crimes in the name of ‘honour’ whether of a family or caste or community have been reported in the recent past and are continuing to be reported. Though most of these killings and crimes are being reported from the States of Punjab and Haryana, Delhi , Western U.P and other parts of Northern and Western India, the problem is not confined to these areas alone and almost every part of the country has been witness to such incidents. A crime in the name of ‘honour’ is one of a range of violent or abusive acts including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and other coercive acts. In each of these cases, the family of the girl who has chosen to exercise her choice to marry is implicated. The family, sometimes alone, and often in association with other relatives/friends, and/or a certain body of persons like the ‘caste’ or ‘khap’ or community based panchayats, is instrumental in committing these killings and crimes. On certain occasions, the main perpetrator of these crimes and killings are the ‘caste’ or ‘khap’ or community panchayats. These panchayats or associations, through various kinds of coercive and punitive actions, want to create terror and stop marriages and associations on the basis of choice from taking place.
However, these actions in the name of ‘honour’ are due to a variety of self seeking reasons but are commonly justified on the basis of custom and tradition. These actions are also violative of certain fundamental rights in the Constitution of India, including the right to life, and liberty which includes the right to bodily integrity, and the right to choose whom to associate with. The actions of the parents of the girls to stop her from exercising her choice also result in curtailment of her freedom to movement and expression. A valid consent to a Marriage is also an essential prerequisite under the law.
However, no laws which punish crimes in the name of Honour exist in India. There are also no laws which punish the illegal and often barbaric actions of the Khap or community panchayats or other caste or religious associations. Some offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are invoked to sometimes book offenders in these cases but these offences do not cover the entire
gamut of illegal actions perpetrated in the name of Honour or prescribe adequate punishment for these barbaric acts.