Alarmed at the rising incidents of honour killings, the government has finally decided to act. It will amend the 150-year-old Indian Penal Code under which caste panchayats (Khaps) ordering such killings will be charged with murder.
In a series of proposed stringent measures, the law ministry, HT has learnt, has recommended an amendment to Section 300 of the IPC to book “all members” of khaps with committing murder, and not only those, who carried out the killing.
Asked for its opinion by the home ministry, the law ministry has advised insertion of a new (fifth) clause in the definition of murder.
“All members of the caste panchayat…will be deemed to have committed the offence of murder, even in case they merely ordered any honour killing,” it has proposed.
Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily confirmed the move but did not give any details. “A strong deterrent against honour killings is urgently required and we are putting it in place.”
His ministry has, however, rejected the demand to ban caste panchayats.
“An individual or a group have a right to assemble and carry out their activities, till such time they don’t indulge in an illegal activity,” said an official.
In a related move, the ministry has also recommended doing away with the 30-day notice period required to register marriages solemnised under the Special Marriages Act, 1954. Under this law, mainly inter-religious and inter-caste marriages are registered. “This period is an open invitation... to attack the couples marrying in defiance,” the ministry stated.
It has also asked for a change in the Evidence Act to shift the “burden of innocence” on the accused. Till now, it is on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused.
Hooda vs Jindal
Rejecting the demand of Congress MP Naveen Jindal to legalise caste panchayats, Haryana Chief Minister Bupinder Singh Hooda on Tuesday said the panchayats would not be allowed to take the law in their own hands. “We will take action if they do,” he said.
Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia in a letter to Hooda congratulated him for Haryana being the first state to bring charges against the “inhuman practise of honour killing by Khap Panchayats”.
A Haryana court had convicted the accused in a case of honour killing in Kurukshetra last month.