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Honour Killing and Laws in India
India is a country where there are many religions, castes, creeds, languages, etc., each with its own rules and regulations. The customs and traditions of every caste or group may vary from place to place. These customs and traditions apply even to marriages. When these marriages do not take place according to the rules set by these customs and traditions, the so called guardians of these take adverse action against the groom and the bridegroom by killing them and naming it “honour killing”.
What is Honour Killing?
Human Rights defines ‘honour killings’ as acts of violence, generally murder, committed by manly family members against women of the family, which, according to family members, bring their downfall and reduce their respect amongst society.
Now, these acts are not just limited to the females; even the male is at gunpoint. It mostly depends on whose family is stronger or is of a higher caste. The lower caste family suffers. The male and the female are both murdered in the name of ‘honour’.
The word honour that has been given to these murders is because of the thought that by marrying a lower caste or against the tradition or culture of the community, the child has lowered the honour of the family. And hence, these killings are justified by saying that the honour of the family should not be placed at risk, even if it means the death of their or any other person’s child.
Laws in India
There is no particular law that has been made specifically for the purpose of dealing with honour killings. This is quite shameful that even after this kind of practice has been followed for decades, a special law for the same has not yet been introduced.
The Indian Constitution, according to which all laws are made in the country, provides every citizen with rights irrespective of their race, sex, caste, or religion. It gives India a secular position where every person has the liberty to follow the religion they want and to marry the person they want.
Article 14 of the Constitution provides that every person is equal before the law. Furthermore, it guarantees equal protection under the laws. This article clearly mentions that each person shall be treated the same in the eyes of the law. If a person commits an offence, then no special treatment shall be given to any person except for the exceptions provided in the Constitution itself.
Article 15 further lays out the grounds on which a person shall not be discriminated against. It includes religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
Honour killing is a violation of both articles. It nowhere gives equal protection of the law to the male and the female. The female is made to suffer more than the male. The female is said to be the honour of the family, thus, she is killed so that the honour of the family is not lost. This results in a gender violation by the murders.
Article 19 of the Constitution provides the right to freedom. This means that a citizen has the right to move to any place in the country unless restricted by law.
Article 21 provides for the right to life and personal liberty. This article gives the citizen the liberty to choose any person of their choice. It nowhere mentions any kind of religious or caste barrier. But honour killing violates both of these articles. It restricts the people of one class or group from staying and following their self-made rules and customs, which hinders the enjoyment of the rights provided by the Constitution.
The right to choose one’s own life partner is completely violated. When the couple wants to move away from that place, they are not allowed to do so. Even if they move away, they are caught and brought back to follow their customs, and they are killed to showcase the rigidity of the honour killing tradition.
India has been abolishing untouchability under Article 17, but when honour killings are done because one of the spouses is from a lower caste, it highlights the untouchability system and violates Article 17.
Honour killing is more like culpable homicide, as defined under Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code. It means that the act is done with the intention of killing or causing the death of another person. And it has been made punishable under Section 302 of the same Code.
These people form communities and decide their own cases. These places have Khap Panchayats. These panchayats decide these cases on the basis of their own laws rather than Indian laws. The honour killings are considered to be of utmost importance for maintaining the pride of their community.
Some important cases
Smt. Laxmi Kachhwaha v. State of Rajasthan (1999)
In this case, a PIL was filed against the Khap Panchayat, which was operating illegally in Rajasthan. The Court decided that the Khap panchayat should be restricted in their operation that their people should be kept behind bars.
Manoj Babli case
In the Manoj Babli case, Manoj and Babli loved each other. They got married to each other in defiance of the Khap Panchayat’s wishes. So the Khaps recognised them as brother and sister. They were not ready to accept it, resulting in pesticides being induced in their mouths. Later, their strangled bodies were found in a canal. Some family members of the dead were prosecuted and punished with a sentence of life imprisonment.
Lata Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2006)
It was held that there is nothing ‘honourable’ about honour killings. Intercaste marriages were considered lawful, and every person has the right to choose their life partners. Instructions were given by the Supreme Court to take strict action against any person doing acts of honour killing in the name of religion.
Honour killing is considered a heinous offence by the law as well as the Court. Honour killing is a barbaric and inhumane act done by the uncivilised people of the society. It is the need of the hour that severe punishment like the death penalty be imposed on the people involved in such crimes. These crimes are abuse the morals of Indian society. Thus, they should be curbed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is “honor killing” in India?
Ans. "Honor killing" is a term used to define the act of killing someone, usually a woman, in the name of protecting the family's honor. Such killing is a heinous crime and illegal in India. Despite this fact, there have been instances of honor killings in various parts of India, particularly in rural areas where traditional patriarchal values are still prevalent.
Q2. What is the punishment for honour killing?
Ans. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines the punishment of those involved in honor killings. The punishment for honor killing can range from imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years, up to imprisonment for life or even the death penalty, depending on the severity of the offense.
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