Vaishnavi Nirmal | Manikchand Pahade Law College, Aurangabad | 26th February 2020
Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India & Others [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 231 of 2010]
Fact of case:
The Petitioner Shakti Vahini Organization was authorized for doing a research study on “Honour killings in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh” by order dated 22.12.2009 passed by National Commission for Women. It was observed that in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab trend of honour killings has increased and it creates fear among youth who intend to get married by their own choice. According to NCRB report in the year 2014, 2015 and 2016- 288 cases of honour killing were reported (provisional data).
Writ petition has been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking directions to the respondents- the State and the Central Governments to take preventive steps to fight honour crimes, to submit a National & State Plan of action to control crimes of the said nature and further to direct the State Governments to constitute special cells in each district which can be approached by the couples for their security and protection. Also, it was pleaded to issue a writ of mandamus to the State Governments to launch prosecutions in each case of Honour killing and take appropriate measures so that all such honour crimes and rooted evil in the mind-sets of certain members of the society are dealt appropriately.
1. Whether an individual has a right to choose life partner of his/her choice?
2. Whether honour killings undertaken by Khap- Panchayats are legal?
On 27th March, 2018 the Apex Court gave a landmark ruling that any attempt by Khap Panchayats or any other assembly to destroy or preventing two consenting adults from marrying is absolutely ‘illegal’ and laid down certain preventive, remedial and punitive measures in this regard. The 54 page judgment was delivered by the three-judges’ bench comprising the Chief Justice of India, Mr. Justice Dipak Misra, Mr. Justice A.M Khanwilkar and D.Y Chandrachud. The court held, “the criminal cases pertaining to honour killing or violence to the couple(s) shall be tried before the designated Court or Fast Track Court as felt necessary by the authority for that purpose. The trial must proceed on day to day basis to be concluded preferably within six months from the date of taking cognizance of the offence. We may hasten to add that this direction shall apply even to pending cases. The concerned District Judge shall assign those cases, as far as possible, to one jurisdictional court so as to ensure expeditious disposal thereof.”The judgment also says that Khap panchayats should not take the law into their hands and cannot assume the character of a law implementing agency for that authority has not been conferred upon them under any law. Khaps are caste and community based assemblies – usually comprising elderly men from the Jat community – in northern parts of India that have a say on several issues, including marriage, dowry and the education of children, based on traditional customs.