SC Asks Centre to Make Its Stand Clear on Khap Panchayats

The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to make its stand clear on a plea seeking action against the diktats of 'Khap Panchayts' such as harassing young couples for entering into inter-caste or intra-gotra marriages in the name of family or social honour.

"Why don't you file an affidavit and make your stand clear on the issue? You say as to what action you propose to take on the Law Commission's report," a bench of justices C K Prasad and Ranjana P Desai said.

The court, which was hearing a PIL of NGO Sahakti Vahini seeking a direction to the government to take action against Khap Panchayat for allegedly harassing and killing couples, gave six weeks time to the Centre to file an affidavit.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, appearing for the Centre, said opposition to all kinds of valid marriages, which have not be barred by the Hindu Marriage Act, are not valid.

The Hindu matrimonial law provides for a degree of prohibited relationships under which two persons cannot marry and other marriages, including the inter-caste and the intra-gotra marriages, are valid ones cannot be opposed.

The Law Commission, in one of its reports, has suggested the enactment of the Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2011.

Besides various measures, the proposed bill says "no person or any group of persons shall gather with an intention to deliberate on, or condemn any marriage, not prohibited by law, on the ground that such marriage has dishonoured the caste or community tradition or brought disrepute to all or any of the persons forming part of the assembly or the family or the people of the locality concerned."

Earlier, the court had taken strong note of Khap's diktat on dress code for women and asking them not to carry mobile phones, saying such diktats were against the fundamental right to life of citizens.

It had also asked various Khap Panchayats of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to appear and express their views.

The Khap leaders had told the court that "very distorted facts" have been projected about them.

Top police officers from UP and Haryana had also appeared and submitted that although Khaps issued some socially retrograde resolutions they were never directly involved in 'honour killings.'

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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