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11:52:12 pm 27-March-2018
New Delhi, 27th March (IANS): The Supreme Court on Tuesday said any interference by the extra-constitutional Khap panchayats to scuttle marriage between two consenting adults is illegal and can't be allowed.

It also said that all cases of "honour killings" should be tried by special/fast track courts.

Saying that any act in the name of honour that "tantamounts to atrophy of choice of an individual relating to love and marriage", the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said it is "illegal and cannot be allowed a moment of existence".

Holding that fundamental rights are inherent in a person, the court in its judgment said that "the intolerant groups who subscribe to the view of superiority class complex or higher clan cannot scuttle the right of a person by leaning on any kind of philosophy, moral or social, or self-proclaimed elevation".

Speaking for the bench, Chief Justice Misra declared: "It has to be constantly borne in mind that rule of law as a concept is meant to have order in a society. It respects human rights. Therefore, the Khap Panchayat or any Panchayat of any nomenclature cannot create a dent in exercise of the said right.

"When the ability to choose is crushed in the name of class honour and the person's physical frame is treated with absolute indignity, a chilling effect dominates over the brains and bones of the society at large."

"The fundamental feature of dignified existence is to assert for dignity that has the spark of divinity and the realization of choice within the parameters of law without any kind of subjugation," the judgment said.

Holding that the "honour" killings "guillotines individual liberty, freedom of choice and one's own perception of choice", the court said: "It has to be sublimely borne in mind that when two adults consensually choose each other as life partners, it is a manifestation of their choice which is recognized under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution."

The court also directed that all the cases involving honour killings or violence "shall be tried by the designated Court/Fast Track Court earmarked for that purpose" and the trial would proceed on day to day basis and be concluded "preferably within six months from the date of taking cognizance of the offence".

The court said that this direction will apply to "pending cases" as well.

Noting that there were 288 cases of honour killings between 2014 and 2016 and saying that "there cannot be any assault on human dignity as it has the potentiality to choke the majesty of law", the court recommended enactment of a law dealing with the offence of honour killing.

"...we would recommend to the legislature to bring law appositely covering the field of honour killing," it said.

The court also issued a number of directions as punitive steps and remedial measures to deal with the issue.

The landmark judgement came on a plea by NGO Shakti Vahini urging the apex court to direct the Central and the State governments to take steps to combat honour crimes, to draw a national/state plan of action to curb honour relating crimes and setting-up of special cells in each district which can be accessed by the couples for their safety and well being.

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