Honour Killings and Prevention of Crimes in the Name of ‘Honour’ and Tradition Bill, 2010

We see honour killings in headlines of newspapers quite often. Though this menace is prevalent across the length and breadth of the country, they are occurring more frequently in northern and north western India.

Background

Honor killing is execution especially of the youth under the ambit of protection of honour of the family/caste/community. These Killings are taking place when the people decide to marry outside the caste or religion. Sometimes, the honour killings are also taking place against same gotra marriages. Often these killings are endorsed by family, caste groups and Khap panchayats to uphold the honour of family/caste/community.

These age-old restrictions are endangering the liberty of a couple through social sanctions and causing harm or harassment. These restrictions are not just irrational but also, unconstitutional. The constitution has assured right to liberty and freedom of expression, and a right of association, movement and bodily integrity. All the people have right to control their lives but these restrictions are against the spirit of rights prescribed under the constitution and also against human rights.

The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of ‘Honour’ & Tradition Bill, 2010

In order to bring a renewed focus and attention and to fight against these crimes, the National Commission For Women had proposed draft” The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of ‘Honour’ & Tradition Bill, 2010.”

Salient Provisions
  • Anyone killing or causing harm for exercising their right of choose a partner will be guilty shall be punishable with the punishment prescribed in the Indian Penal Code.
  • Anyone harassing (both mental and Physical) woman or her partner or anyone connected with them shall be punished with imprisonment for a minimum term of one year and a maximum term of ten years and shall also be liable for punitive fine.
  • Anyone inciting to harass or to kill the couple or their family members shall be punishable with a term of imprisonment upto two years and with punitive fine.
  • The burden of proof would on the accused.
  • It empowers magistrates prohibit/prevent the commission of such offences and further prohibit the meeting of any persons or body of persons likely to discuss the commission these offences. It also prescribes punishment for violation of these orders.
  • All officers of the Government are required and empowered to assist the police in the execution of the provisions of this Bill or any rule framed under it.

The bill declares that the provisions of this bill would be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law.  It also seeks to amend Section 5 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 to omit the words “for a period of not less than thirty days” which mandates the couple to give 30-day prior notice about the intended marriage to the marriage officer of the district.

Is new law necessary?

Arguments in favor of separate law
  • Separate law would bring more clarity for the enforcement agencies.
  • Resting of burden of proof with the accused would create deterrence.
  • Separate law not only punishes individuals but also the institutions like Khap panchayats. This provides for a wholistic approach to deal with the menace.
Arguments against a separate law
  • Against the principle of minimum government and maximum governance. Various provisions under IPC can be used to deal with honour killings.
  • Laws doesn’t work by itself, they need to be worked. It’s not severity of punishment but surety of punishment which will cause deterrence. This requires Judicial reforms.
  • Even after stringent laws against dowry, it is still widely prevalent therefore India needs more of behavioral change than law for acting against honour killing.
  • The mechanisms of collective responsibility will affect even those members who doesn’t support these irrational restrictions. It could be also misused for vindictive agendas.

The behavioral change phenomenon is very vital to address the various problems haunting India, but the importance of law cannot be undermined. Law commission in its 242nd report has said penal laws lack direct application to the illegal acts of such caste assemblies and khap panchayats and has prepared a draft bill to effectively fight against honour killings. Therefore, new law and behavioral change should go hand in hand in fight against honour Killings.

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