In a bid to stop the murder of young couples and their family members in the name of tradition and honour, especially under the instruction of Khap panchayats in North India, the Union home ministry has come up with a stringent law.
The proposed law will make all Khap members accomplice in the crime, besides bringing all such cases under the purview of murder (section 300 of the Indian Penal Code).
The ministry has circulated the draft of the ‘Indian Penal Code and Certain Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010’, to bring changes in the IPC, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the Special Marriage Act, 1954, and put a leash on the spate of honour killings in recent times.
On Monday, the Supreme Court had issued notices to the Centre and the Haryana, UP, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh governments seeking information on steps taken to stop honour killings.
The home ministry wants such killings to be brought under the purview of murder and have in place a proper definition of dishonour or perceived dishonour. The new IPC provision will make Khap members accomplice in the crime and prosecute leading members of caste panchayats.
During the trial, the burden of proof will be on the accused instead of the victims. For this, a new section — 105A — will be inserted in the Indian Evidence Act.
Besides, to ensure the safety of couples marrying against the wishes of families, communities and caste panchayats, the government proposes to do away with the present compulsory 30-day notice period in the courts under section 5 of the Special Marriage Act.
This means a couple will be able to tie the knot in courts immediately after giving an application for marriage.
It was felt that the present notice period, during which the photographs of the couples were pasted on the notice board of the court, was leading to easy identification of the couples. They were being harassed and even killed by the families later.
As for the IPC amendment, the ministry feels that since caste panchayats are informal bodies with no legal status, the members of caste and clan have to be treated as accomplices in the crime. The new law will view all members of the caste panchayat ordering the killing deemed guilty by virtue of their association with such a body, whether or not they supported the act.
In the new law, “dishonour” has been explained as acts such as adopting a dress code unacceptable to family, caste, clan, community or caste panchayat; choosing to marry within or outside gotra, caste, clan, community and engaging in sexual relations unacceptable to family, caste, clan, community or caste panchayat.
The National Commission for Women has sought severe punishment for people who give provocative statements favouring such killings.
The proposed amendments IPC section 300: Inserting a new (fifth) clause indicating that culpable homicide is murder if the act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death or if it is done by any person or persons acting in concert with, or at the behest of a member of a family or a member of a body or group of caste or clan/community/caste panchayat (by whatever name called) in the belief that the victim has brought dishonour upon the family/caste/clan/community or caste panchayat.
Indian Evidence Act: A new section 105A will be inserted, which says when death of a member of a family occurs and a person or a group of persons is accused of acts falling within the fifth clause of section 300 of the IPC, then, the burden of proving that the case does not fall within that section shall be upon such person or persons.
Special Marriage Act: In the Section 5, the words notice “for a period of not less than 30 days” shall be omitted.