Taking note of the recent spurt in 'honour' killings, the Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Union Government and eight States on steps taken to prevent such incidents.
A Bench of Justices RM Lodha and AK Patnaik issued notice to the Centre and the States of Haryana, Punjab, UP, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on the PIL filed by Shakti Vahini, an NGO.
The NGO voiced grave concern over the increasing number such killings allegedly carried out at the instance of khap panchayats (caste councils).
The PIL alleged that the Union/States have neither taken any preventive steps which are required to be done to combat such crimes which involves mass fury nor drafted a policy/mechanism to protect such couples and individuals.
"The States have remained mute spectators of such crimes and have remained completely silent on even strengthening the law enforcement to combat such crimes. The States have not drafted any monitoring mechanism for keeping a watch on such crimes.
"In many cases they have failed to prosecute the people who are involved in disturbing public tranquility. This has resulted in severe violation of fundamental rights under Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 19 (freedom of expression and speech) of the Constitution of India, the PIL said.
According to the NGO, the khap panchayats were resorting to crimes like torture, mutilation, rape, forced marriage, imprisonment within the home and even murder.
"These crimes are intended to protect the family honour by preventing and punishing women for allegedly violating community norms of behaviour, particularly sexual behaviour.
"Women have been abducted, arrested or raped and are often blamed for shaming their families. Reasons for honour killings can be as trivial as talking to a man, or as innocent as suffering rape. These crimes are often collective and premeditated," the NGO states citing a number of honour killings reported in the media.
The NGO urged the apex court to direct the respective Governments to constitute a special cell in each district where young couples can approach for safety measures. This can prevent honour killings to a certain extent, it said.
"The killing of couples and individuals in the name of honour is violation of the fundamental right of individual to live with dignity and it is the duty of the state to protect them, " Shakti Vahini in its PIL stated.