Cabinet defers decision on khaps, honour killings

GoM to be set up to consult state govts before making legal changes


Prasanna Mohanty | July 8, 2010

The khap panchayats and the honour killings turned out to be too hot for the union cabinet to handle all by itself. Instead of giving a go ahead to the ministry of home affairs to amend the laws to check honour killings, the cabinet has opted for a wider consultation with state governments before deciding its next move.

According to sources, serious differences erupted when the cabinet met this morning to decide the matter. Ministers like Kapil Sibal and MS Gill reportedly stressed on the sensitivity of the issue for the Jats of Haryana, Punjab and also that of others in other parts of the country and managed to convince on the need for a consultation with the state governments before deciding the legal course.

Following this, it was decided that a Group of Ministers would be constituted to take the task forward. The members of the GoM is yet to be decided.

In order to keep the khap panchayats on a tight leash, the home ministry has proposed to widen the meaning of “murder” in the Indian Penal Code to include the honour killings and make all those who participate in the khap-dictated honour killings liable to be tried for “murder” with a maximum punishment of death sentence.

The ministry also proposes legal changes to put the onus on the khap members to prove their innocence.

As per the existing law, the khap panchayat elders who "order" the killings can only be tried for “conspiracy to kill” which attracts a lighter punishment.

Some of the other changes being proposed include social ostracism practiced by the khaps against youngsters marrying within the gotra, within the village or outside the caste a criminal offence.

The law ministry has already given a go-ahead to change the law regarding a mandatory waiting period of 30 days before a marriage is registered to provide a reprieve to the youngsters defying the khaps.

It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had asked the centre and some of the states last month to spell out their stand on honour killing and the steps they propose to take to stop it



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