by Nathalia M Fenwick
Even after 74 years of India gaining independence, can we really say that all the citizens of the country are independent and have the freedom to take decisions affecting their own life? The booming numbers of Honor Killing or honor related violence’s clearly shows that our country has achieved independence only from the external forces not from the internal crisis. According to the survey published by honor killing: department of justice; during the period of 2014 and 2016, 288 cases were registered with Supreme Court regarding honor crimes. Also it states that in Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and other north- western parts of India, honor killings are rampant. Although north India has the highest number of Honor related atrocities, reports also suggest that it is common in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. As per the survey conducted by ‘Reuters’, a dalit organization, around 187 caste based murders have been recorded in Tamil Nadu. But all these sources have admitted to one point that the number of Honor based violence’s and killings are under- reported. Most of the cases are registered as suicides. There are several Supreme Court cases on prevention of honor Killing and in this article I will be discussing the case of Shakti Vahini v. UOI, wherein certain guidelines were given to curb this wide-spread menace
Facts of the case
Shakti Vahini, a non- government organization which was authorised to conduct the survey on honor related violence in Haryana, Punjab and western U.P, had filed a write petition under Article 32 against states, Central government, Ministry of Home affairs and ministry Of women and child department to take necessary actions to prevent and curb the atrocities relating to honor violence in 2010.
- Whether an individual after attaining majority has the right to choose the partner of his/ her choice?
- Whether the Khap panchayats have the right to interfere in the right of a person to choose the partner?
This landmark judgement comprising of 54 pages were delivered by a three judges bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M Khanwilkar and J. D.Y Chandrachud. It was contended by the petitioners that there are various incidents connected with honor Killing, such as loss of Virginity outside marriage, pre- marital pregnancy, infidelity, having un approved relationship by family and society, refusing for an arranged marriage, divorce, demand of custody of children, leaving the matrimonial home, creating scandal or gossips, falling victim of rape etc. On the other hand, the respondents contended that as honor killings comes under the ambit of section 300 and 302 of IPC, it is the States that has the responsibility to prevent such atrocities. There also has been various proposals to amend Indian Penal Code and also the 242nd Law Commision’s report falls under concurrent list so the Centre is doing certain discussions with several states to formulate an effective action plan. Further more, few States have taken an initiative to put forth certain plans but has not been affectively implemented. Thereby, necessary guidelines needs to given to the State and police mechanisms to curb this issue.
After considering all the points before it, the Supreme Court have given certain directions to prevent the honor killings. Former Chief Justice Deepak Mishra, quoted a famous French philosopher Simone Weil, while delivering the judgment, which are as follows-
“We don’t live in a world in which there exists a single definition of honour anymore, and it’s a fool that hangs on to the traditional standards and hopes that the world will come around him.”
The Khap panchayats were condemned of their actions. These are basically local panchayat groups representing a particular caste or community and they have been given the powers to direct the conduct of the people in conformity with their customs. However, it was observed that they do not have the right to condemn and torture the adult individuals who wish to have a partner outside their caste or sub- division. The court referred to Lata Singh v. State of U.P and anr. Wherein a writ of mandamus/ certiorari was granted to protect the petitioner and respondent from the threat of ‘honor killing’. Also, the Hon’ble Supreme Court referred to the observations made in Asha Ranjan v. State of Bihar, wherein it was rightly pointed out that a woman’s right to choose her partner is a constitutional right enshrined under Article 19. No class group or thinking can curb this right from her.
The argument advanced by the respondents saying that Khap panchayats play a vital role in spreading awareness about prohibited degrees of marriage like ‘sapinda’ or ‘sagotra’ was rejected. The individuals can take the protection of law when such interference is made.
Additionally, the court has given the direction to give remedial, punitive and preventive measures to construct a strong implementation mechanism for the same. The states are directed to implement these within 6 weeks.
Analysis and conclusion
The expression ‘freedom’ does not have an exhaustive meaning and is not confined only to physical bounds. It covers several other things including the right to choose one’s own life partner. Choosing a partner for self in no way harms the family or society. But still, it is condemned and frowned upon by many. We must have come across various instances where a father himself kills his own daughter in the name of ‘honor’. And most of these are only reported as suicides. So the fault not only lies with the family or caste members but also with the State authorities. The reports saying an increase in these atrocities are showing the devastating plight where our country stands when it comes to development, not the development of infrastructure or economy but the mindset of the people. Here, education plays a vital role, more than that the strict implementation of various rules and guidelines are a necessity. Most probably we all know how to prevent it, but we sit idle most of the times ignoring the happenings around us. Only a holistic development and education in every sense can actually help our nation to grow.
In this article I have covered the analysis of the landmark judgement Shakti Vahimi v. UOI with facts, contentions of both parties, issues raised and judgement delivered. This is a case wherein the Supreme Court gave directions regarding the incidents of honor Killing which is rampant in our society. To curb these, effective and stringent measures are required.