The Supreme Court has categorically stated that no one both individually or collective has a right to interfere in a marriage between two consenting adults.
A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra has warned the khap panchayats from assuming the role of conscience keepers of society, and has stated that the courts follow the law and not tradition or ‘gotra’ considerations to consider the legality of a marriage.
Senior advocate Narender Hooda, representing some khap panchayats, asserted that khaps encourage inter-caste and inter-faith marriages highlighting that they had allowed Haryanvi men to marry women hailing from other states due to the state’s skewed sex ratio.
Hooda told the court that the khaps only oppose ‘sapinda’ or ‘sagotra’ marriage between men and women and also cases where they are within the prohibited degrees of relationship, which is also advised against by genetic science. He added that Khaps attempt to “uphold centuries of tradition and act as conscience keepers of society”.
The bench however responded asking who had appointed the khaps as guardians of the society or its conscience keeper, and warned against assuming that role. The bench further said that Khaps have “no business determining the legality of a marriage.”
Govt. Not Tackling Issue
The Supreme Court reiterated its concern that the Centre was failing to take the issue of ‘honour killing’ seriously after additional solicitor general Pinky Anand asked for two further weeks to suggest ideas for tackling crimes against inter-caste, inter-faith or ‘sagotra’ marriages.
Social activist Madhu Kishwar stepped in during court proceedings to state that the brutal killing of couples in inter-caste or inter-faith marriages must not be given the respectable term of ‘honour’ killing. She highlighted that just 3 % of the cases are due to ‘sagotra’ marriage, with the remaining the result of religion, caste etc, citing the example of the recent Ankit Saxena killing.
The bench however has said it was not concerned with individual crimes.
It has suggested that a high-level police officers’ committee can be set up to handle issues and “devise a mechanism to protect couples in distress,” stating that no one can interfere with adults wanting to marry each other, which was supported by Anand .
The SC also highlighted its 2016 ruling in the Nitish Katara murder case several times. In that case, the SC upheld the life sentence to murder convict Vikas Singh noting that while for one it may be ‘my honour is my life’ but it cannot be at the cost of another.