The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed as “absolutely illegal” any attack by khap panchayats or associations on an adult man and woman opting for an inter-caste marriage. A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, observed that an adult woman and man can enter into marriage and no society, parents or panchayat can stop them.
Hearing a petition against khap panchayats, the Supreme Court observed that if the Centre did not act towards banning them, the court will step in. The bench also asked the Centre to give its response on suggestions earlier given by amicus curiae (friend of the court) Raju Ramachandran on ways to prevent harassment and killing of young couples in the name of family honour for marrying out of caste or clan (gotra).
“Whatever the amicus curiae says about khap, we are not concerned with that. What we are concerned is that if an adult girl or boy gets into marriage, no khap, no individual or no society can question them,” the bench observed. The bench told the Centre that it will not give its suggestion on the suggestion given by amicus curiae, assisting the court in the matter, and the court would contemplate passing an order based on the amicus’ suggestion.
The apex court had earlier sought suggestions from an NGO ‘Shakti Vahini’, amicus curiae and ‘Khap Panchayats’ on the issue.
Khaps are caste or community organisations in villages which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce harsh punishments based on regressive and age-old customs and traditions.