When Two Consenting Adults Decide To Marry No One Can Interfere: Strict Warning For Khaps From SC
Hearing the writ petition by NGO Shakti Vahini regarding the offence of honour killings, the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice A. M. Khanwilkar reaffirmed,
“Where two consenting adults agree to enter into matrimony, no individual rights, group rights or collective rights shall interfere therein or harass the couple”.
The Advocate, appearing for the khaps submited,
“The Khap Panchayats encourage intercaste and interreligion marriages. Because of the skewed sex ratio in Haryana, as many 2.5 million local boys have married in other states. What the Khap Panchayats are opposed to is intra-gotra marriage. Say, I am a ‘Hooda’; it is an age old tradition that a hooda shall not marry another hooda. They are deemed to descended from a common ancestor and hence, are siblings. Even section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 prohibits marriage between Sapindas, which is calculated as within 5 degrees of relations from the father’s side and 3 degrees on the mother’s side. Scientifically also it has been proven that such marriages have a disastrous impact on the genetics of the children”.
But Chief Justice Misra refused to relent-
“We are not concerned with the Khap Panchayats. Nobody, neither the society, the parents or other relatives of either party to the marriage nor the Panchayats, may interfere”.
Continuing, Chief Justice Misra remarked,
“We are not writing an essay here. We are not concerned with the sapinda or gotra. We are only interested in the decision of two adults to get married. If any issue arises in respect of the marital status or property, the court shall be entitled to decide the same. The children may be legitimate or illegitimate, that may be for determination in a partition suit. Similarly, even the marriage may be null and void. But you keep out of it. No third party shall interfere. We have already made out stand thereon clear in Vikas Yadav v. State of UP ”.
Another advocate, representing the Khap Panchayats, expressed concerns regarding the suggestions filed by Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran,
“‘Honour killing’ is too respectable a term for these hate crimes. However, only 3 percent of these murders happen on account of gotra. As many as 20 Khap Panchayats have passed resolutions prohibiting honour killings. So the use of the term ‘unlawful assembly’ in connection thereto amounts to defamation”.
In response, Senior Counsel Raju Ramachandran submitted,
“The term Khap Panchayat has been used in the 242nd Law Commission report. The court may use any neutral nomenclature, like, Marriage Prohibition Assembly. Also, the Act of 1955 only prohibits sapinda marriages which are different from sagotra marriages”.
Declining to extend the ambit of the petition to discuss the recent Ankit Saxena instance, then bench sought suggestions from the advocates in respect of nomenclature and the constitution of police committees to deal with honour killings.
The bench also directed ASG Pinky Anand to expeditiously submit the State’s reply on the Amicus Curiae’s suggestions, dubbing the fact in issue as a “serious matter”.
The matter is scheduled for further hearing on February 16.