28 Nov 2021 4:57 AM GMT
It is high time that the civil society reacts and responds with strong disapproval about the ghastly crimes committed in the name of caste, the Supreme Court remarked while upholding the conviction of accused in a honour killing case.The three judges bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai observed that the directions issued in Shakti Vahini v. Union of India to...
It is high time that the civil society reacts and responds with strong disapproval about the ghastly crimes committed in the name of caste, the Supreme Court remarked while upholding the conviction of accused in a honour killing case.
The three judges bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai observed that the directions issued in Shakti Vahini v. Union of India to take strong measures to prevent honour killing should be carried out by the State Governments without any further delay.
These episodes of caste-motivated violence in the country demonstrate the fact that casteism has not been annihilated even after 75 years of independence, the court added.
In this case, Roshni daughter of Ganga Ram eloped with Vijendra on 21.03.1991. This infuriated persons belonging to the Jat community. The accused and other members of the Panchayat announced the unanimous view of the Panchayat that Vijendra and Ram Kishan should be hanged to death. They were taken to a 'Banyan tree' and the parents of the three youngsters were compelled to tighten the noose around the neck of their children. Parents of Vijendra and Ram Kishan were physically assaulted when they refused to hang their children and were ultimately made to hang them forcefully by putting their hands on the ropes and pulling it.
The Trial Court convicted and sentenced most of the accused to death. In appeal, the High Court upheld the conviction, but commuted death penalty to life sentence till last breath.
While upholding the High Court judgment, the court made the following observations:
Bigotry perpetuated by caste-based practices are prevalent even today
39. Two young men and a woman were physically assaulted for nearly 12 hours and killed by the accused for violating caste-ridden societal norms. These episodes of caste-motivated violence in the country demonstrate the fact that casteism has not been annihilated even after 75 years of independence. According to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, inter-caste marriage is one remedy to get rid of casteism in order to achieve equality. His vision for ensuring justice and equality to all sections of the society, especially to the repressed segments, is well enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution. The bigotry perpetuated by such caste-based practices which are prevalent even today, impedes this objective of the Constitution of equality for all its citizens. Proposal of marriage by Roshni who belongs to Jat community, with Vijendra who is a Jatav, has resulted in their deaths. Though the number is a tad less, honour killings have not stopped in this country and it is high time that the civil society reacts and responds with strong disapproval about the ghastly crimes committed in the name of caste. This Court issued several directions to the administrative authorities and police officials to take strong measures to prevent honour killings. Honour killings pursuant to the decree of Khap Panchayats have been strongly criticized by this Court in Arumugam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu. Harsh punishment was recommended to those brutal and feudal minded persons who commit atrocities in the name of castes.
Law Commission Report
The court further noted that the Law Commission of India in its 242nd Report suggested the legal framework on Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the name of Honour and Tradition. The bench observed:
"The Law Commission was of the opinion that there must be a threshold bar against congregation or assembly for the purpose of objecting to and condemning the conduct of young persons of marriageable age marrying according to their choice, the ground of objection being that they belong to the same gotra or to different castes or communities. The Panchayatdars or caste elders have no right to interfere with the life and liberty of such young couples whose marriages are permitted by law and they cannot create a situation whereby such couples are placed in a hostile environment in the village/locality concerned and exposed to the risk of safety. The Law Commission further recommended that the very assembly for an unlawful purpose viz. disapproving the marriage which is otherwise within the bounds of law and taking consequential action should be treated as an offence as it has the potential to endanger the lives and liberties of individuals concerned
41. In order to implement the recommendations of the Law Commission in its 242nd Report, the State of Rajasthan has enacted the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Act, 2019 on the same lines. In the interest of liberty and dignity of young men and women in choosing their life partners and in the interest of peace, tranquillity and equality in the society, it is imminently necessary that the directions issued by this Court in Shakti Vahini v. Union of India and Ors. (supra) should also be carried out by the State Governments without any further delay
The bench noticed that in United Kingdom and Canada, racial and religiously motivated crimes are treated as aggravating factors for enhanced punishment.
The court observed that the ghastly murders of three youngsters which are honour killings squarely falls under the head of anti-social and abhorrent nature of the crime as mentioned in Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab. But the court noted that the High Court had commuted death sentence taking note of the advance age of some of the Appellants, the passage of long time after the commission of crime and mental sufferings that they have undergone. Noticing this aspect, the bench dismissed the appeals by State against commutation of death sentence.
Case name: Hari vs State of Uttar Pradesh
Citation: LL 2021 SC 685
Case no. and Date: CrA 186 of 2018 | 26 Nov 2021
Coram: Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai
Counsel: Adv Amita Gupta
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