Even as Congress MP Naveen Jindal drew flak from various quarters, including his own party, on Tuesday for his support to Haryana's notorious khap panchayats (community councils), Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily ruled out bowing to the diktats of the khaps and amending the Hindu Marriage Act.
"We have suggested to amend the Special Marriage Act, not the Hindu Marriage Act. Honour killing is not justified under any law," Moily told Times Now news channel in New Delhi.
Speaking to the CNN-IBN news channel, the minister said these killings could not be justified but said the government is ready to listen to the demands of khap panchayats.
"Each one has got his own opinion. We recognise personal laws in this country. I can definitely look at it if someone petitions me from the khaps. But that doesn't justify honour killings," he said, adding the government will bring a new law on honour killings.
"The bill is now with the home ministry. Five clauses will be added to Section 300 (of the Indian Penal Code). The Indian Evidence Act will be amended to shift burden of proof to the accused and we will amend the Special Marriage Act to take away the 30 days' notice period to get married," Moily said.
The law minister's reaction came after Jindal, who represents the Kurukshetra Lok Sabha constituency in Haryana, Monday not only defended the "historic role" of khaps but also attended their meeting in Kaithal town, 120 km from Chandigarh.
Jindal assured the khap leaders, from the dominant Jat community in Haryana, that he would take up with the central government their demands, including for amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act and complete ban marriage in the same 'gotra' (ancestral lineage).
Jindal's spokesman said on Tuesday: "He (Jindal) sticks to his stand of putting up the demands of the khap panchayats before the central government."
But Jindal's party, the Congress - which rules in the centre and in Haryana - distanced itself from his support to the Khaps and said "his comments are in his individual capacity".
Khap Panchayats have been in the news for wrong reasons in the last five years after they started annulling the marriages of young couples, saying that they are 'brothers and sisters' being from the same 'gotra'. Khap decisions declaring several such marriages void have led to murders of young couples by their families or other community members - a clear case of honour killing.
Many couples and their families have also been socially boycotted and forced to leave their homes and lands.
But Jindal this week openly defended the role of the khap panchayats in the past.
"I am standing besides khap panchayats and I assure them of taking their message and demands to the Congress high command in New Delhi and to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda," said Jindal, while addressing a khap meeting on Monday.
"I and my whole family respect the years old traditions and rituals of khap panchayats. My house is their own home and they can come there any time. I am just like their own child and I can never go against them; rather I always need their blessings."
After Monday's meeting, khap panchayat representatives also submitted a memorandum to Jindal, detailing their demands.
The main opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana this week also agreed to support the demand for an amendment to the marriage act as demanded by the councils.
In the wake of forthcoming elections to municipal committees May 20 and subsequent village council polls in Haryana, no political party can afford to annoy the dominant Jat community which forms a huge vote bank in the state.
The demand of khap panchayats comes after a Haryana court gave capital punishment in March to five people for "honour killing" of a couple who married despite belonging to the same gotra.
Defiant khap leaders are headed for a confrontation with the state government and the Punjab and Haryana High Court which has given rulings over illegal decisions on marriages announced by various panchayats.
Khap leaders have proposed to hold another 'mahapanchayat' (grand council) in western Uttar Pradesh's Bijnor district May 14.