Terming the defence of honour killings by some of those in power as "abhorrent", the CPI(M) on Saturday demanded that draft of a comprehensive law to deal with such crimes be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament.
"There are political considerations at work to downplay the magnitude of the crime. There is an attempt by those in office in at least one of the states where such crimes have occurred to defend the highly retrograde actions of self-styled caste panchayats in the name of tradition," CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she said "you will agree that to put vote bank politics over the requirements of those in office to uphold the rights granted by the Constitution is abhorrent. Yet this is being done."
Maintaining that discussions with state governments and the Group of Ministers on the issue would "not be at all helpful", Karat said "delays on the part of the Central Government to decide on a firm course of action in setting up a legal framework strengthens the perception that it is caused by the pressure of vote bank politics".
Urging the Prime Minister "to do justice to young couples who are victims of anti-democratic and casteist notions and beliefs", she said "what is required is a firm decision by the government for a separate law, the draft of which may be placed in Parliament in the coming session".
She said "unfortunately" Home Minister P Chidambaram was "clearly unaware of the logic" for a separate legislation on the issue as he had maintained that prima facie he was "not sure whether that will take us very far".
"It is this flawed understanding of those charged with addressing the crime which is responsible for the misconceived piecemeal attempts for a legal framework that we see today," she said.
Maintaining that the issue was raised in Parliament, Karat said "parties cutting across political lines had supported the suggestion that there should be a separate law to deal with the range of so-called honour crimes".
Observing that there were many dimensions to these crimes, she said it included the absence of a definition of 'honour' crime, the role of caste panchayats, that of the girl's family because of which often no complaint was filed when a girl disappeared and of law enforcement agencies acting in connivance with the perpetrators of the crime.
"The crime includes murder but also many other crimes such as social and economic boycott, coercive dissolution of marriage, levelling of fines on the family of the boy and their supporters, externment from the village, public humiliation, threats and harassment against relatives," she said.
Karat said women's organisations like the All India Democratic Women's Association had already worked on such a comprehensive law "which the Government may consider".