- Honour killing is defined as the killing of a relative, especially a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonour on the family.
- It is the murder of a woman or girl by male family members.
- The term ‘honour killing’ is also being used widely to describe the class of murders that family members commit while seeking to impose on young couples their medieval view that all marriages should be within their community.
Existing Penalties under Indian Penal Code:
- Sections 299-304: Penalises any person guilty of murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The punishment for murder is life sentence or death and fine. The punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder is life imprisonment or imprisonment for upto 10 years and fine.
- Section 307: Penalises attempt to murder with imprisonment for upto 10 years and a fine. If a person is hurt, the penalty can extend to life imprisonment.
- Section 308: Penalises attempt to commit culpable homicide by imprisonment for upto 3 years or with fine or with both. If it causes hurt, the person shall be imprisoned for upto 7 years or fined or both.
- Section 120A and B: Penalises any person who is a party to a criminal conspiracy.
- Sections 107-116: Penalises persons for abetment of offences including murder and culpable homicide.
- Section 34 and 35: Penalises criminal acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention.
Supreme Court Judgements
The Supreme Court, which has been intervening repeatedly to preserve the freedom of marital choice of individuals, once remarked that there is no ‘honour’ in ‘honour killing’. Various judgments have highlighted the need to come down on such crimes, as well as the social structures that keep such a communal outlook alive.
- Supreme Court ruling in Lata Singh v. State of U.P. (2006) ordering “stern action” against all those threatening or carrying out threats against couples. The Supreme Court reiterated the fact that inter-caste marriages are not banned as per Hindu Marriage Act and is in national interest. It is illegal to stop them in any way.
- In fact, the apex court, in Bhagwan Dass v. Delhi in May 2011, deemed honor killings in the “rarest of rare” category of crimes that deserve the death penalty.
- In Armugam Servai vs. State of Tamil Nadu, Supreme Court said that Khaps are illegal and must be rooted / stamped out.
- Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, speaking against honour killings has said “Two adults are free to marry and no third party has a right to harass or cause harm to them”
- The Principal Sessions Court, Kottayam, Kerala, has passed a judgment awarding life imprisonment to 10 men involved in the abduction and murder of Kevin Joseph, a 23-year-old Dalit Christian
- Kevin was abducted by a group led by Shyanu Chacko, the principal accused and brother of Neenu
- The court ruled that it was an ‘honour killing’ based on Neenu’s testimony that her family was vehemently against the marriage as Kevin was a Dalit.
- The court rightly chose not to award the death penalty. Instead it handed down two separate life terms, one each for kidnapping with intention to threaten the victim with death, and for murder.
- Even though there is a Supreme Court judgment allowing trial courts to deem ‘honour killings’ as those that fall under the ‘rarest of rare cases’ category, the trial judge chose to take note of the fact that the accused were young and had no previous criminal background.
- Discrimination against Dalits is not limited to Hindu communities listed as Scheduled Castes, but extends to those who have converted to other religions too.
- At a time when caste groups have become politically organised and caste associations attract the young and the educated, there is a need for a redoubled effort to eliminate the evils of a stratified society.
- In particular, administrators must give full effect to the various preventive, remedial and punitive measures recommended by the Supreme Court.
- The Centre may also examine the need for a comprehensive law to curb killings in the name of honour and prohibit interference in matrimonial choice of individuals.