Amid raging controversy over alleged honour killings in the country, the Supreme Court has declared “illegal” the khap panchayats’ support to such atrocities on couples going for inter-caste or inter-religion marriages.
A bench of Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra said: “There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal-minded persons who deserve harsh punishment. Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism.”
The bench issued these directions while dealing with a case from Tamil Nadu under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act). Upholding the conviction of accused Arumugam Servai and Ajit Kumar, the bench said calling a Dalit by his caste with a view to insulting him or her amounted to an offence under the Act.
Deploring the practice of serving food and beverages in separate tumblers for members of the Dalit and other castes in some parts of Tamil Nadu, the SC asked the government to end the menace, failing which the police and administrative officers concerned shall be liable for prosecution.
Directing that a copy of its judgment be sent to all the state chief secretaries, home secretaries, DGPs, district magistrates and high courts, the bench ordered the administration to take strong measures to prevent the atrocities.
It also directed the state government to suspend the district magistrate or collector and the SP if the officers concerned fail to prevent the such harassment.
“We, therefore, direct that the administration/police authorities throughout the country will see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by any one nor subjected to threats or acts of violence…” the bench said.
It added that inter-caste marriages were in national interest as they would result in destroying the caste system. “The caste system is a curse on the nation and the sooner it is destroyed the better. It is dividing the nation at a time when we have to be united to face the challenges before the nation unitedly.”