Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Wednesday explained to a Group of Ministers (GoM) the difficulties the State would face in implementing the law the Centre proposed to curb ‘honour' killings, government sources told The Hindu.
Mr. Hooda, explaining the working of khap panchayats, stressed that when it came to social reform, caution had to be exercised. He pointed out that the provisions in the existing Indian Penal Code could deal with murder.
Mr. Hooda's lack of enthusiasm comes as a setback to the Centre's efforts at putting in place a law to deal with this pernicious practice that has been rampant in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
While Mr. Hooda represented his State, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati sent a letter, supporting the government's proposal, and Rajasthan sent an official who also broadly backed the Centre's proposal, the sources said.
After the last GoM meeting on August 12, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said his Ministry — the nodal Ministry for steering the proposed legislation — was still awaiting a response from the States.
He expressed the hope that the States would respond soon, as the government was keen on introducing the Bill this session. Now with just four days for the end of the session, it looks unlikely that the government will be able to bring a bill on which the States — law and order is a State subject — agree before the Cabinet and then before Parliament.
On Monday, Mr. Hooda discussed the issue of ‘honour' killings with senior officials and legal experts, prior to his appearance before the GoM on Wednesday.
The legal experts he consulted have told him that anyone accused of a ‘honour' killing can be booked under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC, while those involved in planning or being part of a conspiracy in a ‘honour' killing case will attract Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention). Indeed, the Haryana experts picked on those aspects of the law that Central officials earlier warned would be contentious — that an entire khap panchayat would be held guilty of an ‘honour' killing and that the onus of proving innocence would fall on the accused.
At present, the onus of proving the involvement of an accused lies with the prosecution.