Faced with public outrage over the alleged honour killing of a 29-year-old Muslim in Uttar Pradesh, the Centre on Tuesday said it was serious about tackling the menace. However, its efforts so far seem to have failed to convince nearly half the states in the country.
“We have asked for a report from the state governments. This is something we have taken very seriously,” minister of state for home RPN Singh said.
He said the government is “very seriously trying” to amend the constitution to deal with growing incidents of honour killings across the country.
The government has been engaged in the process to make changes in the criminal law over the past three years, and the Group of Ministers (GoM) — set up for the purpose in August 2010 — was reconstituted by the Prime Minister last month following the cabinet reshuffle.
The GoM, now headed by finance minister P Chidambaram, is currently examining the latest report by the Law Commission of India on the subject.
The commission, which advises the government on complex legal issues, has recommended a two-year jail term for members of khap panchayats that order honour killings.
The government has been virtually forced to go slow on the issue, since 13 of the 28 states in the country are yet to send their views on the proposed changes in the criminal laws to curb honour killings, particularly in Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
These three states have admitted in the Supreme Court that they have not prepared any specific legal framework to curb the menace. “There was no specific legal framework to address the problem of honour killings, but top police officials have issued directions to treat such cases seriously,” the UP government informed the Supreme Court in July.
Rajasthan and Haryana cited administrative circulars issued by the state governments to address the issue, but conceded there was no state-specific law against honour killings.
Another problem faced by the Centre is the lack of official data on honour killings. “Cases of honour killings are registered under the offence of murder. Therefore, it is not possible to exactly pinpoint such cases,” said a government official.