The government is set to amend the 150-year-old Indian Penal Code to define honour killing as a heinous crime by adding a new section to the criminal law, with punishment ranging from life imprisonment to even a death sentence.
The move follows the growing demands to curb the social menace of killing young girls defying their families in marriage related issues, in some north Indian states particularly Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
So far, honour killing is not a classified crime in India, and no separate data is available of such cases with the National Crime Records Bureau.
The proposal moved by Home Ministry, has been cleared by the Law Ministry and the government is likely to move a Bill in Parliament in the coming Budget session, after getting the cabinet nod.
“We have completed our preparations to put in place a strong deterrent against the pervert practice of honour killings not only against those who carry it out, but against those who abet it also,” Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily told Hindustan Times.
The government has shelved its plan to bring a fresh law to curb such killings, and has decided to amend the IPC, the law that prescribes punishment for criminal offences.
The new definition of honour killing will carry the same punishment as that of murder — ranging from a minimum of life imprisonment to a maximum of death sentence.
Till now, there was no clarity on how those responsible for such killings, particularly of girls, should be booked, said a senior ministry official.
“Though the police treated these cases as that of murder, but it was a grey area till now,” he said.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram had assured the Rajya Sabha on July 28 last year that the government was considering “a fresh definition” for honour killings.
“Caste panchayats aid and abet honour killings. Principle actors in such panchayats need to be arrayed as accused and prosecuted for murder... Reasons for such killings have remained closely guarded secrets in many cases so far,” Chidambaram had told the House.
The government is also considering changes in the Special Marriage Act to simplify the procedure of marriage between consenting adults belonging to different religions, and also to the Evidence Act to shift the burden of proof in cases of honour killings on the accused.
The United Nations, in its two reports in 2002 and 2009, had expressed concern on honour killings in Asia. “But India was not mentioned in this context,” said a senior government official.