1. contesting honour killing : a socio legal perspective

Contesting Honour
Killing:A Socio-Legal
By: Parul Pareek
[email protected]
With best compliments
Under the guidance of
Hon’ble Mr. justice
N.K. jain
(former chief justice of
Madras & Karnataka
High Court)
Chairperson RSHRC
Prepared by:
Internship students of
various law universities
Hon’ble Chairperson and Members of
State Human Rights Commission are:
Justice N.K Jain, Chairperson
Justice Jagat Singh
Shri D.S.Meena
Shri Pukhraj Seervi
• This project intends to throw light
on the dark and unchartered
territories of honour killing and
the ways to curb them.
• The methodology adopted in this
project is Doctrinal in nature
keeping in view the theoretical and
evaluative aspect of the topic.
• Although this part intends to define honour killing but
unfortunately this word cannot find any place, neither in our
constitution which is one of the bulkiest constitution among all
constitutions of the world nor in any Indian legal acts or
• To put it simple, honour killing or customary killing is the
name given to murder committed by family members of their
child for marrying against their will, custom and tradition
which according to them will bring dishonour to the family. It is
that black spot on the pure and sacred relation of marriage,
which forces innocent lover to either give up or die.
• With the advent of modernity, the notion that
“individual is a part of society” is replaced by
“society is formed by individuals”. But even in the
modern era, people with orthodox mindset continue
to live and try to impose their irrational custom and
tradition by justifying them on fake science reports
and findings
• Conservative people of the modern era like some of our politicians
are of the contention that if the blood relatives try to reproduce, the
chances of the offspring getting genetic disorders by mutation of
genes may arise. They therefore bring up the petition of amending
the Hindu marriage act, 1954 to ban marriages of such kind.
Modernist say that even if the report is true it is possible only in the
rarest of the rare cases and therefore cannot in any way justify the
gruesome killings in the name of honour. Modernist unlike the
conservative are of the view that custom are built to suit society’s
necessities and it is an organic concept and they should evolve
with time to suit the needs of the present society and the customs
which become obsolete and are burden to the present scenario
should be abolished whereas the Conservative give prime
importance to the custom whatever the situation may arise.
• From the time immemorial, importance is given to
the person’s ascribed status and not to his achieved
status. Here we are talking about Caste, religion,
gotra and gender as the ascribed status and these
are the elements responsible for the spate of
honour killings in the present .
• During the time of partition, and between the years
when India converted from independence to
Republic (1947-1950), Indian women were forced to
marry men from Pakistan or vice-versa. As, a result
of that , to save family honour or to remain in
orthodox society ,people started to search for the
women who did so and when they were found
,were mercilessly killed .
• Our Indian custom has been of a Patriarchal notion
which treats women as a commodity and believes
that she is responsible and has a burden to
maintain their family and community’s honour.
Anything done in violation of this by the woman
cannot be tolerated and the penalty could be not
other than her death
• Marriage was not considered as an individual’s affair
and parents were the sole authority to take decisions in
this regard and consent of their children was not
regarded as a condition precedent to a valid marriage.
• And in addition to it the parents also wanted that their
property should be transferred to their legitimate heir.
According to them the legitimate child can only be from
the spouse which they have chosen for their child.
• Another important concept in this regard is Gotra.
Gotra is said to be originated way back in history from
many sages like vashishtha, shandilya etc. The people
belonging to the same gotra are taken as siblings and
are not permitted to marry within the same gotra. There
exists brotherhood for the people within the same gotra
and the women in that gotra are treated as sisters by
the men within that gotra. Now with the time, this
custom was followed by the increasing number of
people and became law.
• To guard this law there came the cruel “Khap
Panchayat” in around 14th century. The Khap
Panchayats are the courts of a group of villages
sharing the same caste or geography formed by the
upper caste people to strengthen their power over
the rest of the community. According to these, love
marriage is the heinous crime which is required to
be punished by imposing death penalty on the one
doing it.
• Honour killing is not only a law and order problem, it is in
fact a social evil which is further related to many social evils
present in the Indian society from the time immemorial. Most
of the sociologists believe that honour killing is still taking
place because of the rigid caste system prevalent in India.
People are not ready to accept inter caste marriages as they
have fear of losing their caste status. They are emotionally
and historically attached to their caste and don’t want to
waive it at any cost because their contention is that there is
great dissimilarity of culture and problem of identity for future
generation, so these types of marriages are short lived and
• Another reason given by them is that they cannot
preserve their purity of blood.
• In northern India, there exists strong sense of
brotherhood. The people of same Gotra are considered
to be siblings and marriage among siblings is a heinous
crime. The worst part of it is that the offspring of same
Gotra couple is not acceptable in the society. For
justifying this they provided scientific reasoning that the
offspring of the same Gotra spouses are genetically
• In the patriarchal society of ours, women are
considered as a potential commodity for sexual
pleasure for men; this is a fundamental question of
hegemony. According to them, an ideal man is one
who preserve his honour by brutally killing his wife
/sister, whom he believes or has reason to believe,
to be in a relationship or in love with a man who is
not fit for her .
• Women is a property to his father, who has privilege
to exert control over her sexuality to prevent chaos
and retaliate to the act done by her which are
immoral according to androcratic standard of
family/society. Honour killing is a crime which is
always committed by men and is a masculine
homicide. It is in reaction to the challenges of the
masculine position of the male members of the
family and the society who gathers and decides on
punishment and who should perform it.
• In paternal masculinity father has every right with
regard to his offspring as he is under obligation to
support her economically and look after her interest
all the time, which gives him privilege to intervene in
the most personal matters of female child, most
importantly marriage, where he has power to act on
behalf of his child.
• women are often victimized by their brothers.
Fratriarchy ,a part of androcracy, which have quite
different set of values from that of patriarchy belongs to
a men’s league which are a mode of male domination.
Interest of fratrist favour the interest of family. They do
this because of the affinity with the group to which they
belong. In order to prove his powerful position in the
group or to show his position in his family , he perform
the obligations of his father and contribute to the
violence against female members of his family, which in
reality is actually done for his own interest
• IN CASE OF MARRIED MAN, To prove his gender
identity in dominant men’s league, he enjoys certain
rights and obligation and intervenes in all the
personal matter related to women in his family. The
Father’s arbitrary right to make any kind of
decisions like to force his child for marriage is
another patriarchal privilege for man.
• The people are not ready to accept the modern values
and refuse to change their attitude towards marriages.
They don’t give importance to individual rights which
has become priority of the modern world and still
continues to believe on superstition and their
community’s rigid laws even when they have become
obsolete. They can’t accept the fact that their offspring
could go against their wish or marry without their
consent, they are also not ready to accept their
deteriorating importance in this matter which makes
them insecure about their power position in family and
• Indian capitalism has failed to eliminate the
feudalism which is very much evident from the still
existing practice of honour killing. Feudal lords want
their control over maximum land and property. If the
woman makes her own choice in choosing partner
then there is greater probability of her claiming for
the share of land and property. This is the subtle
reason behind honour killing in feudalist-northern
• Dominance of high caste people over lower caste leads
to confrontation between them. This power difference
between high caste and sub-ordinate caste is in most
threatening form now a days, members of Khap
panchayat make rules and regulation in such a way
that the laws made by them suits higher caste people
which includes them. As a result of this, lower caste
women have to follow the existing norms which lead to
their exploitation. Higher caste people who are
generally feudal lords make rules which favour their
feudal approach of keeping property intact with them
and implement the same upon lower caste people.
Individual Rights :Need of Modernity
• According to Jeremy Bentham and J. S. Mill, who
are the proponents of utilitarianism, individual
posses the right because the society gives them. In
contrast to this, Kantianism believes that individual
right should be respected and should not be
sacrificed at any cost. In the present context,
applying the principle of utilitarianism would prove
fatal for the innocent lovers.
Honour killing and the law
• The orders passed by the khap panchayat is a sheer
violation of individual’s human right. Our indian
constitution provides for article 21 which has been
given wider interpretation over the years. It provides the
basic right i.e. rights to life.
• We have many laws to prevent a woman from physical,
mental or emotional harassment to guarantee Article 21
,which includes life free from intimidation, threat and
violence and it doesn’t mean animal existence but living
with dignity and the person is guaranteed the same
except according to procedure established by law.
• Transformation of custom into law requires that the
custom must be rational but the custom of honour
killing is just another irrational custom like sati. So, it
should be dealt with the same stringent laws as sati
was dealt with to abolish it completely.State has power
under the concurrent list to make laws to bring out
social reform as stated in the Narsu Appa mali case.
One of the prime objectives of the preamble is to
provide for social justice. So, state is under obligation
to make laws to achieve this objective
• Honour killing also violates the human rights by
punishing women which includes rape,
imprisonment within the home, forced marriage,
mutilation and even murder. The Union of India as a
member to the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights has an obligation to protect the lives, rights
and liberty of individuals and protect them from
such heinous crimes
• The brutal act of Khap panchayat other than sec
300 and 302 of IPC, also falls under Section 120A
and B and sections 107-116 which penalizes any
person who is a party to a criminal conspiracy and
penalizes persons for abetment of offences
including murder and culpable homicide
respectively. Also khap panchayat is liable under
Section 34 and 35 which in turn penalizes criminal
acts done by several persons in furtherance of
common intention.
Action must be taken
• The state looking at such pathetic condition and
everyday violation of human rights to which every
individual is entitled should intervene and come up
with the laws of socially uplifting the women. The
judiciary should apply its powerful tool of judicial
activism, whereby judiciary act as an activist and
takes cognizance of the things itself and advices
centre or state to make laws.
• Directive principle of state policy are regarded as
fundamental to the governance of the country, the
political party contesting the elections are need to
prepare their manifesto according to D.P.S.P. So, the
government of these honour killing prone states should
include policies to eradicate it in the 5 -year plan.
D.P.S.P recognizes the role of state under Article 38, to
secure a social order for the promotion of the welfare of
the people and under Article 40, to take steps to
organize village panchayat.
• People recognize the legitimacy of the decisions
given by khap panchayat because they give speedy
justice to the people, who generally don’t go to the
court of law knowing its long procedure, delay and
denial of justice and the rampant corruption present
in the Indian judiciary. So, the need of the hour is to
extend the helping hand of panchayat to these
areas, to abolish these cruel institutions.
• Women reservation Bill, which is still pending in
parliament should be passed to empower women
,so that they can form majority or atleast equal part
of the legislative body in order to raise such issues
and to ensure legislating laws on the same.
• Honour killing is the social evil and mere enacting of
law won’t help improving the condition, proper
implementation is required and a strong sense of moral
values must be implanted within the people through
educating them and by spreading awareness of these
issues amongst them. Large camps must be put into
ignition to educate masses.
• Separate classes for educating old people must be
established to overcome their superstitions and
irrational traditions.
Group movements like feminist movements must
take the initial to form the mass movement and
force the government to form stringent laws against
this social evil.
Media can also play an important role by supporting
the mass movement and highlighting the heinous
crimes committed by khap panchayat.
• Although Mr. P.Chidabram has proposed that a bill in
this regard will be introduced in parliament and they will
try to define honour killing. But until and unless proper
care is not taken, it is difficult to examine this sensitive
issue. Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has also
expressed serious concern over the growing incidents
saying that young people are being killed by those who
are supposed to love them. Although the spark against
honour killing is started but continuation of the same is
really a difficult task. And for this, contribution of
common people is very much essential.
• The union law minister Veerappa Moily said that the
government is planning to bring a bill to provide for deterrent
punishment for honour killings. In June 1995, a low caste boy
Bijoy Kumar Bind, was publicly lynched for his involvement
with the upper caste girl in Bihar, Bhagalpur. There are
uncountable cases on honour killing which are done by the
family members and are given the name of accidents. Some
land mark cases like Mehrana murder case in which Roshni,
a Jat girl from U.P ran away with a low caste boy and for that
they had to give up their life. Other such cases are Nirupama
Pathak (journalist) case , Manoj-Babli honour killing case and
many others.
• One of the reason behind these merciless crimes could
be greed for property of feudal lords and the fear of
women asking for share in it. So, the Hindu succession
Act,1956 must be amended to provide a law which
ensure the compulsory part of property to the women
anyhow, so that it could reduce the cases of honour
killing which are merely for these reasons.
• Another measure could be to amend Indian Evidence
Act, 1872 to put the burden on the accused to prove
himself innocent alike in Dowry Death cases.
• Under Article 14, states vulnerable to honour killing
like Haryana, U.P, Bihar etc. should be put into a
special category and fast track court should be
established to deal with such cases more
effectively, shelter houses for couples should be
provided, monetary relief and special protection for
the couple should be given.
• The decision of Lata Singh case must be
implemented properly. In Kharak Singh case court
held that disturbing the sleep and ordinary comfort
amounts to infringement of personal liberty of a
person, then how the same law ignore the killing, for
selection of the life partner of one’s own choice
which is entirely a personal matter of an individual.
Books of RSHRC
It gives me great pleasure to express my
Gratitude to all concerned in helping me
complete my
project. I am very thankful to Rajasthan State
Human Rights Commission for giving me a
chance to do the internship here.
thank you

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