In a landmark judgment on Tuesday, a court in Karnal awarded the death sentence to five persons and life imprisonment to one for murdering a couple on the diktat of a self-styled khap (caste) panchayat for marrying against community norms.
The additional district and sessions judge pronounced the sentence after reserving judgement in the case on Monday.
The couple, Manoj, 23, and Babli, 19, who didn’t use their Banwala lineage name, had eloped from their village in Kaithal district and got married in Chandigarh in April 2007. This enraged their families and the local Jat community as they belonged to the same lineage and had thus violated a social tradition and family ‘honour’.
The couple was then threatened with death by Babli’s relatives and later abducted in broad daylight from Karnal district and murdered. Their bodies were found in a canal on June 23, 2007 following which the police promptly cremated their bodies, declaring them as “unidentified”. This was despite the couple complaining to the police that their lives were under threat and had sought security, which was not provided.
Manoj’s sister Seema was happy with the judgment but said more needed to be done. “We have decided to approach the High Court to plead for death sentence to Ganga Raj (panchayat head), who masterminded the episode. It’s a matter of shame the Haryana police system and administration had totally failed to ensure justice.”
Those sentenced to death are Babli’s brother Suresh, uncles Rajender and Baru Ram and cousins Gurdev and Satish.
Ganga Raj, was awarded life imprisonment. Driver Mandeep Singh was convicted for abduction and awarded a seven-year prison term.