By Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN | Jan 15, 2013, 01.20 AM IST
“Imposing a dress code on women and asking them not to use mobile phones, are such orders not socially retrograde? But these are also against the law. How can anyone ask women not to carry a mobile phone,” a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai asked while hearing a PIL which sought protection of young couples marrying inter-caste or within the same gotra from the wrath of khaps.
The bench said this after taking note of the presence of many elders, sporting colourful turbans and belonging to different khaps of UP and Haryana, in the court’s visitors’ gallery. A large number of khap members were also present in the court room in response to the bench’s desire to hear their views on socially retrograde diktats and honour killings.
But the Sarv Khap Panchayat, a conglomerate of 67 khaps in Haryana’s Rohtak district, nonchalantly told the court that it was the family members who lynched girls and boys who marry outside their caste or within the same gotra, unable to resist social pressure and taunts of relatives. Regulating the khaps would not reduce honour killings, it said.
“Such incidents happen only in the peace loving and law abiding people of the village and normally not in mischievous families,” the panchayat said in its written submissions to the court.
The bench questioned the inspector general of police (Meerut zone), additional director general (law and order) of Haryana along with superintendents of police of Rohtak and Jind districts on khap-dictated honour killings. All the police officers said khaps sometimes adopt socially retrograde resolutions but there had been no instance of their members being involved in honour killings.
The cops said it was the family members who indulged in killings of youth who defy caste and gotra barriers. Amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran explained, “Once the khaps issue an order of censure on matrimonial alliance, the family of the involved boys and girls face the prospect of being socially ostracized. To overcome this, they resort to killing of the couple who defied the khap-imposed social barriers.”
The bench wondered why the police of UP and Haryana were “so anxious to give a good conduct certificate” to the khaps but additional advocates general of both states – Gaurav Bhatia and Manjit Singh – sought time to file a proper affidavit on behalf of the police. But counsel for the khaps said in unison, “What the police officers are saying is correct.”
When additional solicitor general Indira Jaising said “the Sarv Khap Panchayat of district Rohatak has admitted that it adjudicates all matters relating to marriage and family”, the bench said, “That means they are running parallel courts.”
The court came to the rescue of Jaising, who was being shouted down by the counsel for khaps seeking time to file their response to the PIL by NGO Shakti Vahini. The NGO’s counsel Ravi Kant said, “Though khaps are directly not responsible for the honour killings, their orders vitiate the atmosphere. There are many instances where the girl’s family had been excommunicated or the girl’s head had been tonsured.”
Jaising said, “There has been a failure on the part of the police to provide security to couples marrying against social norms fixed by khaps.” The bench asked the khaps to file their written submissions not exceeding 10 pages by February 18 and posted the matter for detailed hearing on March 5.
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