Author: Sagrika Joshi
3rd Year LL.B (3 Year)
New Law College, Pune
India has always been praised for its rich heritage, unique cultures and traditions. In India, people participate in various traditions and events, wholeheartedly. It has always been complimented for saving its customs. But Honour killing is one such custom for which India has never been applauded.
For some, Honour Killing is a joyous occasion. For some, it is a moment of grief. Honour Killing, also known as shame killing, is the killing of a female member by her relatives or society members who claim that she has brought shame to her family name or the religion. Honour Killing, and has been performed in India for a very long time now. The methods of honour killing include stabbing, throat-slashing, burning, hanging, throwing acid on the victims and beheading them. This heinous act is usually committed by the family members of the victim in public places to set an example in the society and threatening people who try to go against the society’s will and wish.
Honour killing is the act of vengeance committed by the male members of the family against the female members. The victims are usually murdered by their own blood. Female members of the family also help in executing these acts against the fellow female members who have gone against their will. Honour killing is about making sure that one’s child does not ‘step out of his/her line’.
Khap Panchayat or murderous panchayat usually exits in the parts of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujrat, Maharashtra and Delhi. Khap panchayat is the assembly which passes a decree and commits the evil act of Honour killing. In the name of preserving and protecting the customary practices, it passes an order known as “Diktats” which declares the newly-wedded couple as “Brother and Sister”. The girl is forced to tie a rakhi on the hand of the boy, who she has been married to, until they accept their new relationship in front of the society. These marriages are not prohibited by law but in the eyes of Khap Panchayat, they are not permissible.
Khap Panchayat is an old establishment which tries to serve justice in the rural areas of India but has never applied the principle of Natural Justice while passing an order or judgment. They also give orders to kill the couple for dishonouring the customary practices prevailing in the society they reside in. They try to take the law into their own hands and serve justice in the villages. Khap panchayat expects women to be well behaved, forgiving and submissive. Any female member who tries to do any act which is contrary and oppose, such as complaining about work, how worse they are being treated than the animals and the submission is either intimidated to death or is treated very inhospitably.
Khap Panchayat has no support and backing up from the government for committing such monstrous crimes. It has no government recognition. It is an unlawful assembly. The Supreme Court of India has declared the Khap Panchayat as illegal.
Specific Triggers for Honour Killing in India
People always try to seek society’s validation for their actions. For decades, people have been hiding their sexual preferences from their family members and are afraid to come out of the closet. Homosexuality has been decriminalized in India in review of Article 377 of the Indian Constitution but some parts of India are not yet ready to accept Homosexuality. They are against same sex marriages and usually thinks that this is a disease which needs to be cured. When people confront their families about their sexual preferences, they are being murdered by their very own and when investigated, they portray it as a suicide which helps them in putting the blame entirely on the victim. Homosexuals are yet considered as criminals in various parts of India.
Progress always comes with a risk. Where some parts in India have opened their hearts into accepting love marriages, some are yet against them. Religion plays a vital role in committing the act of honour killing. Religion has undeniably been used to brainwash people. The Hindu personal law has not forbidden the inter-caste marriages but the people are not willing to admit these marriages. Loving a person who belongs to a different caste is considered a crime in the society. The victims are being assaulted, tortured and finally hanged till death. Inter- caste marriages are the foremost reason for honour killings in India. Religion system is a curse to the society which needs to be demolished as soon as possible.
- Arranged or forced marriages
Women are seen as torchbearers of family honour in India. They are not allowed to converse with men outside their family, they are not given a fair choice in choosing their life partner, they are not allowed to break the stereotypes and stand their ground. The tradition of arranged marriages has been taking place in India from the very beginning where the parents of the girl choose a groom for her without asking for her consent to the marriage. And when they try to oppose this marriage, they are beaten up by their family members and is left with no choice but to go ahead with this marriage. A woman’s ability to choose a life partner in the name of class honour is always been crushed by the societal norms.
- Rape Survivors
People residing, especially, in villages are of a viewpoint that the rape survivors have no right to life and they should either be banished from their society or they should be assassinated. They believe that the girl must be leading the accused on and it is entirely her fault. Even the family members of the victim do not stand by her and wish her to be dead for bringing disgrace to their family’s honour. The head of the panchayat orders in the meeting to kill her and get rid of her. Before killing them, they are tied to a pillar, her head is shaved and finally, they burn her. If not this, then she’s been hanged on a tree so that the entire village can see what has happened to her after committing such a sinful act. The rape survivors are considered as sinners in the society and instead of providing them Justice, people try to finish them instead. The rape survivor who is also pregnant with the child of the accused is not given a chance to survive so that she could just deliver her baby, the child and the survivor, both are killed.
- Seeking divorce and alimony
A woman’s choice for opting out of a wedlock without the consent of her spouse is said to have triggered for honour killing. Marriages are considered as a sacred commitment taken place not only between two people but also between two families. Women suffer from the act of domestic violence, forced abortions, dowry, etc. on an everyday basis but dare they complain about this to anyone. They are left with no possibility then to stay in the marriage to protect their lives. If they choose to walk away from a marriage, they invite death to their doorsteps.
Landmark Case Laws
Manoj–Babli honour killing case
- Facts of the case: –
Manoj and Babli both were the residents of Karoran Village, Kaithal. Manoj was the only earning source in his family and owned an electronics repair shop in the village. Manoj used to live with his mother and three siblings along with his cousin Narender while Babli was residing with her mother and three siblings and was pursuing her studies in school. In the year 2005, Manoj and Babli fell in love with each other but couldn’t get married in the village as they both belonged to the same Jat Community which considered them as siblings. Manoj’s mother informed Babli’s mother that both of them were seeing each other and to keep Babli away from him as they used to talk for hours on the telephone. On the 5th of April, 2007, they both went missing and later it was discovered that they both had eloped in a Durga Temple in Chandigarh. The khap panchayat annulled their marriage and banished Manoj’s family from the village and also passed an order that if anyone from the village will keep any relations with them will be fined Rupees Twenty-Five Thousand (Rs.25,000).
On the 27th of April,2007, Babli’s family members filed a First Information Report (F.I.R) against Manoj and his family members for kidnapping Babli. On the 15th of June,2007, Manoj appeared in the Court and confessed that he has not kidnapped Babli and they both are happily married. The Police officers were ordered the protection of them and were supposed to escort them to Chandigarh safely. The five police officers deserted the couple in Pipli. Manoj and Babli suspected foul play and instead of heading towards Chandigarh, took a bus for Karnal. Later, Manoj called his mother to inform her about their whereabouts and they were suspicious that Babli’s family was behind all this. Manoj’s family then filed an F.I.R against her family regarding the kidnapping. The couple was leaving for Delhi but en route, they were being picked up by Babli’s family members. A road contractor witnessed the kidnapping and immediately informed the police and gave them the license plate’s number of the car.
Babli’s family forced her to consume pesticides and strangled Manoj in front of her. The bodies were wrapped in gunny sacks which were later dumped into the Barwala Link Canal in Hisar district. The bodies were fished out by the police. After the autopsy, the bodies were cremated by the police and they recovered Babli’s anklet and Manoj’s shirt. The five accused were arrested as Manoj’s family identified the bodies.
- Judgment: –
By examining all the pieces of evidence on record and the witnesses, on the 30th of March, 2010, first time in the history of Haryana, a death sentence was passed against the five accused in a double murder case who were the relatives of Babli. The head of the Khap Panchayat was fined Rupees Sixteen Thousand (Rs.16,000/-) and was awarded a life imprisonment. This was the Landmark Judgment resulting in the conviction of Khap Panchayats and first death sentence in the name of honour killings in India.
Nitish Katara murder case
- Facts of the case: –
On the 17th of February, 2007, Nitish Katara was murdered by Vikas Yadav. The victim, Nitish was a 25-year-old businessman in Delhi while Vikas Yadav was the son of D.P. Yadav, a politician. Nitish was an alumnus of IIT, Ghaziabad where he fell in love with his batchmate, Bharti, who happened to be the sister of Vikas Yadav. Bharti was confronted many times by her family but she always refused to say that he was just a friend to her and nothing more than that. Bharti was tensed about how her family is going to react to this. The Yadav family never approved of their relationship and Nitish started receiving death threats. On the 16th of February, 2002, Nitish and Bharti attended a common friend’s wedding. Vikas Yadav along with his cousin Vishal Yadav was also the attendee of the wedding. Later at night, Vikas and Vishal took Nitish for a drive in their car and Nitish never returned home. Three days later, his body was found on the highway. He was initially stabbed with a hammer and then burnt alive on the road. The doctor at AIIMS, Delhi identified the body of Nitish using the DNA of his parents.
Inspector Bhadoria arrested both the accused and informed in the Court that both of them have confessed their crime but later, he changed his statement and turned hostile in no time. Police Constable Mishra, disclosed that both the accused confessed their crime while they were brought to the Dabra Police Station after being arrested. It was discovered that Inspector Bhadoria was a business associate to politician Yadav. After being handed over to the U.P police, they both gave a detailed confession about kidnapping Nitish from the party and murdering him. The Police recorded their statement on an audiotape which was broadcasted by NDTV news channel in May 2006.
Bharti moved to London after the murder for an extended period but kept sending e-mails to Nitish’s brother blaming her father for sanctioning the kidnapping and murder of Nitish.
- Judgment: –
On the 30th of May 2008, The New Delhi fast-track court-sentenced Vikas Yadav and Vishal Yadav to life sentences for the kidnap and murder of Nitish. They were also fined Rupees One Lac Sixty Thousand (Rs.1,60,000/-) each. Vikas Yadav was granted bail 66 times without any clear reason documented during the first two years of his imprisonment.
On the 18th of August, 2015, The Supreme Court of India upheld the High Court verdict for 30 years in prison for the murder. On the 9th of October, 2015, The Supreme Court rejected the appeal filed by Nitish’s sister for the death penalty of the Yadav brothers. The Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the conviction for 25 years in prison.
On the 3rd of October, 2016, the Supreme Court of India sentenced the Yadav brothers to 25 years in prison. Additionally, a third convict in the case named Sukhdev Pehalwan was also sentenced to 20 years in jail.
Cases Reported in the year 2020
Divya Honour Killing case
- Facts of the case: –
A 20- year old girl was slain by her parents in the Jogulamba-Gadwal district after being discovered that she was pregnant. Divya fell in love with Bhaskar Naidu, belonging to the OBC community, while pursuing her degree in Andra Pradesh. Divya had missed her period so her parents took her for medical examination where it was found out that she was pregnant. When confronted about the same, she disclosed that she was in love with Bhaskar Naidu. Her parents forced her to undergo an abortion to which she agreed but later, at the hospital, she refused to go ahead with the termination of pregnancy. Next Morning, her parents informed in the village that she had a heart attack and passed out the other night. The people in the village grew suspicious and informed the police. Police took Divya’s body for post-mortem where it was confirmed that she was throttled to death. The parents confessed that they murdered her because she fell in love with a boy from lower caste and was also pregnant with his child.
Jyoti-Rohit Murder case
- Facts of the case: –
Jyoti Misra, belonging to the Angotha village, had eloped with Rohit Yadav, who was a veterinary in the neighbouring village in 2018 and got married. Jyoti’s family filed an F.I.R for kidnapping under the Indian Penal Code. The case was later dropped, when she came forward and gave the statement that she has married Rohit Yadav on her own wish and will. After listening to Jyoti’s statement, her brothers decided to kill her but were stopped by the family members and asked to wait for the right opportunity.
Jyoti was shot six times by her brother and cousin brother with country-made pistols, while Rohit was shot in his stomach. Rohit survived and is undergoing treatment. Police arrested Jyoti’s brothers and they confessed that the relatives used to constantly mock them over her marriage and insult them on a day-to-day basis.
Legal provisions relating to Honour Killing
Honour Killing violates Article 14, 15(1), 15(3),17,18,19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Currently, there are no specific laws passed to deal with the crime of Honour Killing. India needs separate and strict laws to deal with cases of honour killing. Government has been negligent in establishing laws and most of the cases are not even reported in India due to the lack of unfamiliarity.
The provisions of the Indian Penal Code,1860 are applied in the cases of Honour Killing. The accused is being punished under the general categories of Murder, attempt to murder, Criminal Conspiracy, Common Intention and Culpable Homicide under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Honour killing is considered as a grave crime, and now it’s the need of the hour to introduce Laws relating to such atrocious crimes.
Honour Killing is a major offence in India. Every individual has a right to choose whom they want to spend their life with. Marriage is an institution between two consenting adults, and as far as they are content with their decision, a third party has no right, whatsoever, to interfere in their marriage. There is a desperate need to end the Gender-related offences in India. Women have every right to make their decisions, and should not be blackmailed and tricked into doing something by their family members or society especially using the words such as “family honour” and “family’s reputation.” A woman deserves equal respect in the society, and equal right to choose what’s right for her. If women will not be allowed to speak, how the world will even notice that they exist? Khap Panchayats should be demolished and people conducting such unlawful assemblies even after being declared illegal by the Supreme Court of India should be punished by the Courts and heavily fined. Honour killing, and has been taking place for a long time in India and other parts of the World and strict laws need to be implemented to stop such customary practices. Even after being declared Illegal, the family members take the matters into their hands and commit the crime of honour killing and portray it as a suicide.