The Supreme Court on Monday asked khap panchayats to not be the “conscience keeper of the society”, adding that “no khap, no individual or no society can question the marriage of two people”. 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, made the observation while hearing a plea against the khap panchayats.
“When two people get into wedlock, no panchayat, no one should interfere,” CJI Misra said. During an earlier hearing, the apex court had termed the attacks on those opting for inter-caste marriage as “absolutely illegal”. The court had also added that such associations cannot collectively punish any men or women for marrying each other of their own choice. “Even if panchayat is a collective body, they cannot threaten a girl or a boy from marrying each other. Whatever it is, it shall not be archaic. It should be alive,” the court said.
The bench had also asked the Centre to give its response on the suggestions given by senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae. It also added that if the government does not come out with its suggestions, then the court would contemplate passing the order on the amicus’ suggestion.
The apex court had earlier sought suggestions from the petitioner, an NGO ‘Shakti Vahini’, the amicus curiae and khap panchayats on the issue. The NGO had moved the court in 2010 seeking directions to the central and state governments to prevent and control honour crimes by taking a number of measures.
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.