A top government panel has objected to a Supreme Court directive to all high courts and district courts, asking them to send those found guilty of having planned and committed honour killings to the gallows.
It has recommended a maximum jail term of seven years for members of caste panchayats who object to legally valid marriages in the name of “honour”. The commission, however, has rejected the law ministry’s suggestion of defining honour killing as a specific offence in criminal law, stating that the existing definition of murder need not be tampered with.
“With great respect, we are constrained to say that a blanket direction by the Supreme Court, making death sentence a rule in cases of honour killings, is a departure from the principles firmly entrenched in our criminal jurisprudence,” the report stated. Stating that death sentence can only be imposed in the rarest of rare cases, the commission has pointed out that in honour killings, a number of accused may be involved and the “degree of participation and culpability may vary”.
The commission stated that the top court's directive “is bound to create uncertainty”, and advocated a review of the issue by a larger Supreme Court bench to dispel any confusion.
To remove fear from the minds of young couples who face persecution in the name of honour of tradition after getting married legally, the commission has recommended that caste panchayats be declared unlawful.
The new proposed law on such unlawful assemblies has defined three separate offences, with a maximum jail term of seven years.