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‘Murder definition can’t be changed for honour killings’

The government’s top advisory body on legal matters has slammed its proposal to amend the law by including honour killings in the definition of murder and shifting the burden of proving their innocence on the accused. Nagendar Sharma reports. Law commission says
By Nagendar Sharma | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2012 02:08 AM IST

The government’s top advisory body on legal matters has slammed its proposal to amend the law by including honour killings in the definition of murder and shifting the burden of proving their innocence on the accused.


Law Commission of India, which advises the government on complex legal issues, favours declaring as unlawful the caste-based assemblies, which disapprove of legally valid marriages on grounds of community honour and other such related traditional considerations.

The law ministry, had in 2010 proposed an amendment to section 300 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which defines murder by adding a separate clause to include honour killings in the definition of murder.

"The existing provisions in the IPC are adequate enough to take care of the situations leading to acts of killing or causing bodily harm to the targeted person who allegedly undermined the honour of caste or community," the commission stated.

“The motive behind killing a person does not furnish real justification to introduce a separate provision in section 300 IPC…..this may create confusion and interpretational difficulties,” it stated.

The Law Commission has dismissed as “undesirable”, the ministry's proposal to shift the onus of proving innocence in a court of law on the accused in cases of honour killings.

“Such a move will be against the cardinal principles of jurisprudence accepted and absorbed into our criminal justice system. If burden of proof has to be shifted in such a case, logically it will have to be done in a large number of other heinous crimes,” the commission observed.

Following a spurt in honour killings two years back, the law ministry had proposed sweeping amendments in the IPC which included charging all members of caste panchayats (khaps) with murder who would be present in gatherings which order honour killings and not only those who actually carry out such killings.

The commission has come out with a draft bill, which seeks to prohibit unlawful assemblies which interfere with the freedom of legally valid marriages.

It has proposed that those present in such assemblies be charged with non-bailable offences, which would carry a jail term of two years and a fine of up to Rs20,000.

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