Against the backdrop of the latest case of alleged honour killing, the Law Commission has recommended making it a non-bailable offence but disagreed with Supreme Court's suggestion that death sentence be applied to all such cases.
The Commission had also asked the government to explore the possibility of a new law to prohibit unlawful caste assemblies (like Khaps) which take decisions to condemn marriages not prohibited by law.
"No person or any group shall assemble to condemn any marriage not prohibited by law, on the basis that it dishonoured the caste or community," the report stated.
"These offending acts imperilling the liberty of young persons marrying or intending to marry according to their wishes are being perpetrated in certain parts of the country and need to be effectively checked," Commission chief Justice P V Reddi wrote to the Law Ministry before he demitted office recently.
The Cabinet has recently approved the setting up of a new Law Commission for a three-year period but its chairman and members have not yet been appointed.
Sources in the Law Ministry said, the August, 2012 report has been forwarded to the Home Ministry for further action.
The wife of 29-year-old Abdul Hakim, who was shot dead on Thursday last, yesterday alleged that her family members were behind the death of her husband.
According to the Hakim's wife Mahvish, the victim was shot dead by her family members on November 22 after he had just entered a Bulandshahr village in Uttar Pradesh along with her and their two-year-old daughter.
The Centre today said it was seriously considering a Constitution amendment to deal with honour killings, as it sought a report from the UP government on the murder of a man featured in Aamir Khan's show on the problem.
The Centre, which had constituted a Group of Ministers on honour crimes, had earlier proposed making honour killings a separate offence under the IPC to bring clarity to law enforcement agencies.
Another proposal was to amend the Indian Evidence Act to put the burden of proof on the accused, which means khap panchayats and family members who perpetrated killings would have to prove their innocence.
The Commission, however, has rejected the government's suggestion of defining honour killing as a specific offence in the Indian Penal Code (Section 300), stating that the existing provisions were sufficient.
It has also turned down the government's view that onus of proving innocence in honour killings cases must be shifted on the accused.
The new law proposed by the Commission has defined three separate offences, with a maximum jail term of seven years for those found guilty of criminally intimidating married couples.
It has disagreed with the Supreme Court's suggestion that death sentence be applied to all honour killing cases. "With great respect, we are constrained to say that such a blanket direction given by the Supreme Court making death sentence a rule in 'honour killings' cases, makes a departure from the principles firmly entrenched in our criminal jurisprudence by virtue of a series of decisions rendered by larger Benches of Supreme Court," the Commission said.
It said that it is settled law that aggravating and mitigating circumstances should be weighed and it is only in very exceptional and rare cases, death sentence should be imposed.
"Death sentence, in other words, is a last resort. Further, where there is more than one accused, the degree of participation and culpability may vary," it added.
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