A Haryana court on Tuesday awarded death penalty to five and life term to one person for murdering a couple on the diktats of a khap panchayat for marrying against societal norms in 2007.
The court in Karnal declared the quantum of punishment for the six people who were found guilty of killing Manoj and Babli, for marrying outside their gotra (sub-caste) three years ago. All the five who have been given the death sentence are relatives of the girl, Babli. They include her brother Suresh, cousins Gurdev and Satish, uncles Baru Ram and Rajender. The khap (caste) panchayat leader Ganga Ram got life sentence while the driver, who was held guilty of kidnapping, was give a jail term of seven years.
Manoj(23), who ran electronics repair shop at Kaithal, eloped with Babli(19), resident of Karoran village in May 2007. According to the police, the girl's relatives dragged the couple out of a Karnal-bound bus in June 2007 and the newly weds were brutally murdered. Their bodies were found in a canal, with their hands and legs tied up and were cremated by the police who declared them destitutes.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Vani Gopal Sharma pronounced the sentence after reserving the judgement in the case on Thursday. This is the first case in which the boy's family had moved court against the honour killing after the khap panchayat (caste-based council) had ruled against the couple's marriage.
Public prosecutor Lal Bahadur welcomed the decision, “Out of seven accused, five have been given death sentence. This will send a strong message to the public that law is greater then the khap.” Court has also ordered that action be taken against two policemen for laxity and directions have been given to the SP to take necessary action he added.
Manoj's sister, Seema said that the family welcomed the decision but will appeal to the higher court seeking death penalty for the main accused. “We would have been happier if the main accused (Ganga Ram) was also given the death sentence. The decision of the panchayat was not justified and people should not to be allowed to misuse their power. We have fought this battle alone when no one was supporting us.” According to the public prosecutor, Ganga Ram got away with death penalty because he intentionally disappeared during the killing.
Seema demanded additional security for her family, “They tried to bribe us to withdraw the case then they threatened that they would kill us if we didn't withdraw the FIR. Even after the decision we're afraid of a backlash from the Khap Panchayat.”
Manoj's brother Narender said that they would appeal for death penalty to Ganga Ram, in the High Court, “We will appeal in High Court for death penalty to the main accused, Ganga Ram. We respect the court's decision but he should be punished so that the instigators of the crime get the punishment. Also it is important that it is a very clear message so that no khap gives such directions, ever.”