The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday commuted the death sentence awarded to four convicts in the Manoj-Babli honour killing case to life imprisonment. Ganga Raj, said to be the prime conspirator, and another convict Satish were acquitted.
Manoj and Babli from Karora village in Kaithal district were brutally murdered by Babli's relatives in June 2007, on the diktats of a khap panchayat for marrying in the same gotra.
In March 2010, a Karnal district court awarded death sentence to five of Babli's family members — her brother Suresh, uncles Rajender and Baru Ram and cousins Satish and Gurdev — for killing the couple.
The leader of Banawala khap, Ganga Raj, who is a prominent Congress leader of the area was awarded life sentence for hatching the conspiracy. The seventh accused, Mandeep Singh, the driver of the vehicle used in the crime, was sentenced to seven years' jail for kidnapping and conspiracy.
The path-breaking sentence had brought hope to Chandrapati, Manoj's mother, who was ostracised by her village and society, but the recent verdict has shattered her faith.
“She is devastated by the verdict and the fact that Ganga Raj will be released from jail adds to her worry,” said Jagmati Sangwan, the president of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) Haryana unit.
Lal Bahadur Khowal, who represented Ms. Chandrapati at the sessions court in Karnal and the High Court said they would appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court.
“Apart from the fact that two innocent children were killed mercilessly and brutally, it was a crime against society and hence was ‘rarest of rare' in nature. Unfortunately very few cases of honour killings com e to light and even fewer reach a courtroom. But if justice is curbed like this; the message is very clear — khap panchayats are above law,” said Dr. Sangwan.