New Delhi: As ‘honour’ killings continue to rock North India, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra warned khap panchayats on Monday “not to be conscience keepers” and said nobody should interfere if two adults want to get married.
The CJI was hearing a plea to ban family killings over ‘honour’, filed by NGO (non-government organisation) Shakti Vahini.
The CJI said: "Whether it is parents, society or anyone, they are out of it. No one, either individual or collective, or group, has the right to interfere with the marriage."
The Supreme Court was speaking on the petition filed by Shakti Vahini, which has asked for a ban on such crimes and on khap panchayats or self-appointed village courts in parts of north India, especially Haryana, which believe it is their duty to protect medieval-era traditions and act like a law unto themselves while "punishing" couples who marry against their families' wishes.
A lawyer, representing khap panchayats, told the apex court they are against such killings. He also said they never oppose inter-caste or inter-religious marriages. They only oppose marriages between sapindas (marriage between two cousins). As per Section 5(v) of the Hindu Marriage Act, marriages between sapindas are prohibited.
The lawyer said: “Khap panchayats encourage inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. Marriages between sapindas are opposed because they are considered siblings.”
SC, however, objected to the same.
“Law will take its own course. Who are you to interfere?” asked CJI Dipak Misra.
“We are conscience keepers”, replied the lawyer appearing for khap panchayats.
“Don’t be conscience keepers. If two adults want to get married nobody should interfere,” shot back CJI Misra.
“We are not concerned with the khap panchayat. We are only concerned with the rights of a couple to get married. Whether marriage is good or bad or is it advisable, we are out of it,” the top court added.
The top court’s hearing coincides with shock in Delhi over the killing of a 23-year-old Hindu man by the family of his Muslim girlfriend. Photographer Ankit Saxena was attacked and stabbed to death on a busy road near his home in west Delhi.
The murder was raised before the judges, but the CJI Dipak Misra said immediately, “Do not get into it. That case is not before us.”
The Supreme Court has adjourned the matter for February 16.