Do not become conscience keepers, SC tells khaps

The Supreme Court on Monday told khap panchayats not to act as conscience keeper of the people and said that no third person should interfere in the choice of marriage between two adults.

“Do not become conscience keepers,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said while hearing a PIL by NGO Shakti Vahini seeking directions to the central and state governments to prevent honour crimes.

The bench said “whether the law prohibits or allows a particular marriage, the law will take its own course” but “when two people get into a wedlock, no panchayat, no one should interfere”.

A counsel appearing for the khaps said the panchayats promote inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. He also referred to provisions in Hindu marriage law which prohibit union between ‘sapinda’ relations (those between close relatives), saying that even science had proved that such marriages can lead to genetic problems in children. He submitted that khaps do not approve honour killings, adding that “custom is not above a human life”.

The court said it was not concerned about khaps but only about the freedom of choice of adults in marriages. “We are on a very fundamental issue. The marriage is between two adults and it is their choice. You cannot take the law into your own hands,” the bench said. It also referred to judgments like the one in the Nitish Katara murder case, and said, “Two persons marry. They are adults. The matter ends.”

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