The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered disciplinary action against the police officials in charge of providing protection to Manoj and Babli, who were killed by her relatives for marrying in the same gotra in 2007, for ‘virtually landing them in a death trap.' While the Punjab and Haryana High Court commuted the session's court verdict on Friday and acquitted Satish and Ganga Raj, the prime accused, Gurdev Singh, Suresh Kumar, Rajinder Singh and Baru Ram have been sentenced to 20 years' rigorous imprisonment without remissions. The seven-year jail sentence of another convict, Mandeep Singh, who drove the car in which the couple were carried to the canal, has been maintained by the Division Bench of Justice Satish Kumar Mittal and M Jayapaul?

Manoj (23) had married Babli (19) of Karora village in Kaithal district, against the wishes of their panchayat on April 7, 2007. Soon the entire village had turned against Manoj's family as the couple belonged to the same gotra. On June 15, 2007, on the orders of the khap, they were brutally abducted despite police protection, brutally killed and their bodies were thrown into a canal.

The Bench said there was no direct evidence that Gurdev Singh, Suresh Kumar, Rajinder Singh and Baru Ram had committed the murders. “Even in the 21st century, such a shameful act of hollow honour killing is perpetrated in our society. It is a slur on the fine fabric of Indian society. Abduction is really cruel and that too the murder of the abductees is barbaric. Our conscience does not permit us to confer death sentences to Gurdev, Suresh, Rajinder and Baru Ram,” reads the order. However the manner in which the couple were provided protection was held as the main reason behind their unfortunate killing. “We find that the investigating agency, in such a sensational case, bungled at each and every stage. Firstly, SI Jagbir Singh, who perceived a threat to the lives of Manoj and Babli, should not have withdrawn security…Till their departure from Pipli, there was a real threat to their lives from the family of Babli. Very strangely, SI Jagbir Singh obtained some statement from Manoj and Babli and virtually landed them in a death trap…”

While condemning ‘the shameful act of hollow honour killings' the court, in its 48-page judgment, gave directions to the Haryana DGP to initiate disciplinary proceedings against SI Jagbir Singh, SI Dharam Pal and Inspector Subhash. “We are constrained to infer that, in fact, the police officials were hand in glove with the accused party. We find that they did not evince any interest, as warranted in this case, to collect material against the accused…Quite unfortunately, novices in the investigating field were employed to detect the shocking crime for reasons best known to the police.” Satish was acquitted as the prosecution failed to establish that Satish was the son of Babli's maternal uncle and nothing was recovered from Satish's possessions. Ganga Raj, who has been alleged as the main conspirator of the killing, was acquitted as there was no evidence to prove that he was present at the crime scene.

The judgment chides the police. “Had the police woken up from its deep slumber, they would have saved the precious life of the innocent young couple. We are constrained to infer that in fact, police officials had been hand-in-glove with the accused and provided loopholes at each and every stage of investigation. They have not evinced any interest as warranted in the case to collect telling materials.”

Advocate R.S. Bains, counsel for Manoj's mother Chandrapati, said he will file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the verdict. He added that Manoj's mother and sister, who had raised their voice against khap panchayats, need police protection.