Khaps not conscience keepers, says Supreme Court

You're no one to interfere in a marriage: SC to khap panchayats on 'honour killings'

You're no one to interfere in a marriage: SC to khap panchayats on 'honour killings'

The Supreme Court on Monday said neither individuals nor groups, much less the society, had the right to interfere in the marriage of two consenting adults, adding only the courts could deal with marital disputes. It also asked for a ban on "khap panchayats" or self-appointed village courts.

The bench sternly told khap panchayats not to assume the role of conscience keepers of society and said courts would go by the law and not tradition and "gotra" considerations to determine the legality of a marriage.

"If an adult man and woman marry, no khap, panchayat or society can question them, " the court bench said. He said that in certain areas like Haryana where there is a depleting sex ratio, inter-caste and inter-faith marriages were being encouraged.

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The khaps submitted further that "as per Section 5 (v) of the Hindu Marriage Act, marriages between sapindas - calculated as within 5 degrees of relations from the father's side and 3 degrees on the mother's side - are prohibited".

The apex court is also considering appointing a high-level police committee appointed to protect couples from different castes, religion, or other "opposed" marriages.

The bench was headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and included Justice AM Kanwilkar, and Justice DY Chandrachud. "You can not take the law into your own hands", the bench said.

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In 2013, the Supreme Court had directed khap panchayats in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to file their response on the legal validity of their functioning as "parallel courts" by restricting the use of mobile phones by girls under 18 years, enforcing a dress code and preventing marriage within the same gotra (clan). "No third party shall interfere", Justice Misra said. "If two adults want to get married nobody should interfere". If a marriage is not permissible under law, there are courts to annul it. Khaps have no business determining the legality of a marriage.

The Public Interest Litigation stated several people have been killed in the name of honour as the Khaps were against inter-caste and intra-caste marriages.

"We can't say which marriage is null or void, which marriage is good or bad [.] just stay out of it", Justice Misra was quoted as saying.

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Activist Madhu Kishwar sought to raise the recent killing in Delhi of Ankit Saxena, allegedly by his girlfriend's family members, but the court said the matter was not before it.

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