Impressing upon the State the need to crack down on honour killings with sincerity, the Madras High Court on Tuesday refused to buy the argument of Director General of Police J.K. Tripathy that his department had already taken preventive, remedial and punitive measures as directed by the Supreme Court on March 27 last.
A Division Bench of Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad were surprised to read a status report filed on behalf of the DGP claiming that awareness campaigns were being conducted across the State through distribution of pamphlets and erection of flex boards about the evils of honour killing.
When the judges wanted to know whether any lawyer present in the court hall had ever seen any such pamphlet or a flex board, none of them responded positively.
Even Assistant Inspector General of Police E.T. Samson, who had filed the report, conceded before the court that not even a single flex board had been erected in Chennai city.
The judges also found that the claim of the existence of a 24x7 helpline to receive complaints regarding harassment and threats to couples of inter-caste and inter-religious marriages was not entirely correct, since the helplines 100 and 1091, referred to in the status report, were for lodging general complaints and those related to women’s issues.
They found it hard to believe that cities, towns and villages prone to honour killings had already been identified in accordance with the Supreme Court directive and that policemen from the respective district special branch had been nominated to keep a check on such incidents in the jurisdictional limits of every police station.
In the report, it was stated that special cells comprising the heads of police, social welfare and Adi Dravidar welfare departments had been created in every city and district to receive complaints from couples of inter-caste and inter-religious marriages and that punitive action had also been taken against four police officers so far for dereliction of duty.
All four police officers, including two women Sub Inspectors of Police and two Inspectors of Police in Madurai and Dindigul districts, had been given the punishment of postponement of increment for three years. It was further stated that 23 cases of honour killing had been reported in the State since 2003 and five of them had ended in acquittal.
Nine of the cases were pending trial, two were under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, three under investigation by the local police and only one case, regarding the marriage between a Dalit woman and a Vanniyar man, filed by the Kottur police in Tiruvarur district in 2014, had ended in conviction so far, the court was told.
Expecting the police to act much more diligently when it came to eradicating the evil of honour killing, the judges said even policemen might require sensitisation and training since deaths due to inter-caste and inter-religious marriages alone need not fall within the ambit of the offence. They finally decided to pass detailed orders on the issue on Wednesday.
The report on behalf of the DGP had been filed in response to a suo motu public interest litigation petition taken up by the court to ascertain the compliance with Supreme Court directives.
During the course of hearing, the Bench was told that Justice V. Ramasubramanian (now Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court) too had passed similar orders in April 2016.
Then, the judge had taken note of as many as 47 honour killings having taken place in the State between 2010 and 2015 and issued a slew of directions to the police, including the constitution of special cells in every district to address the issue. He had also ordered the setting apart of necessary funds by the government for addressing the issue.