The tricky issue of how to define “honour” killings and the need, thereafter, to put it on the Concurrent List in the Constitution will engage members of the Group of Ministers (GoM) when they gather for their preliminary meeting here on August 6 to discuss how to end the practice.
In the draft bill under consideration, the expressions “dishonour” or “perceived to have brought dishonour” have been defined as “acts of any person adopting a dress code which is unacceptable to his or her family or caste or clan or community or caste panchayat,” “choosing to marry within or outside the gotra or caste or clan or community against the wishes of his or her family or caste or clan or community or caste panchayat,” and “engaging in certain sexual relations which is unacceptable to his or her family or caste or clan or community or caste panchayat.”
With law and order being a State subject, any change in the law — in this case a proposed amendment of the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act 1872, and the Special Marriages Act 1954 — would need to involve the States.
At the Cabinet meeting on July 8, when the decision to set up the GoM was taken, it was decided to write to the States as they would have to implement any new law. Government sources said that by putting the new law on the Concurrent List, both the Centre and the States would have to legislate, with Central law taking precedence.
Government sources, however, told TheHindu that one of the suggestions made in the draft bill would be both contentious and difficult to implement — the proviso that “all members of a body or group of the caste or clan or community or caste panchayat, ordering the commission of an act by which death is caused, shall be deemed to be guilty of having committed such an act by virtue of their association with such caste panchayat or body or group of the caste or clan or community.”
While law-enforcing officers say this — the holding of all members of a khap panchayat guilty of murder — will be difficult to implement, it will be a political hot potato in States such as Haryana.
At the July 8 meeting, there were differences on this issue between Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Sports Minister M.S. Gill and Surface Transport Minister Kamal Nath, who pointed out the difficulties in making all members of a khap panchayat accountable for one crime.