But amicus says families of couples going against khap are left with no option but to kill them

In the last four or five years, no khap or its member has been directly or indirectly involved in crime against people who went against community norms, Haryana Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order) M.S. Mann informed the Supreme Court on Monday.

He told a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai, hearing a PIL petition filed by Shakti Vahini, that khap panchayats were not involved in honour killings of inter-caste or same gotra couples.

A senior police officer from Uttar Pradesh also said there was no honour killing in the State. These officers supported the khaps’ contentions and said they were not fomenting any law and order problem.

The police officers were responding to the summonses issued last week to the ADGP and the Superintendents of Police of Rohtak and Jind, besides the police chiefs of Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh, to have their views on the feasibility of putting in place a pilot project to prevent the khaps from taking the law into their own hands.

When the Uttar Pradesh police officer told the court that there was an incident of a khap panchayat banning the use of mobile phones by girls but no force was used to enforce the diktat, the Bench observed, “It is just the tip of the iceberg,” and wanted to know “what is there below the surface?”

The Uttar Pradesh police official, however, maintained that the force was not facing any problem from the khaps.

The officers told the court that the khaps were in fact doing good work in preventing female foeticide.

But Raju Ramachandran, amicus curiae, said the families of couples going against the wishes of the khaps were left with no option but to kill them. “This is the atmosphere.”

“The main culprits”

In an affidavit, the Sarv Khap Panchayats of Rohtak said the “main culprits of honour killings are not the representatives of khaps, but the near and dear ones of the affected couples and more so, the relatives of the girls when they cannot resist the social pressure of the locality and the taunts of the [other] relatives. Any effort to regulate the khaps’ conduct and role would not have any impact on the incidents of honour killings.”

The khaps were not against marriages involving couples from different castes, religions, creed or regions. They were only against same gotra marriages, an issue on which they had made a representation to the Central government, seeking an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, which was a democratic act, they contended. Religious scriptures had prohibited such marriages and as such the curb should become part of law, they said. The Law Commission had recommended steps to curb the activities of khaps without consulting them, they added.

The Bench directed all parties to file their response by February 25 and posted further hearing to March 5.