Elders seek special law to combat honour killings

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The government on Tuesday said it deplored crimes committed allegedly to uphold the honour of the family or the victim or women in general as members in the Rajya Sabha across the political spectrum expressed outrage at recent incidents, demanding special laws to tackle the problem.

The Home Minister P. Chidambaram told the House that the government would examine whether `honour killing’ could be defined separately, while urging the States to investigate, prosecute and punish the people involved in with such crime through fast track. “In a few cases if exemplary punishment can be handed out to perpetrators that will send a message…,” he said.

Replying to a calling attention notice by Brinda Karat (CPI-M), the Minister said: “the vilest crimes are committed in the name of defending the honour of the family or women and we should hang our heads in shame when such incidents take place in India in the 21st century.” He referred to incidents of killings in Meerut, U.P. and Jhajjar in Haryana.

While expressing concern over violence against women, he said, the government recognised that real progress could only be made by addressing the causes that are rooted in anachronistic attitudes and false values. He said more efforts need to be made through educational and awareness campaigns in the communities through sensitisation of law enforcement agencies and listed a number of steps taken by the government.

The Minister said the caste panchayats, which hand down such orders, were equally guilty as those who commit murder and should be prosecuted as accomplices in the crime. The government would look into the Special Marriage Act and see whether it required changes as suggested by some members and also examine the Evidence Act following suggestions that the burden of proof be shifted on to the accused.

Seeking clarifications, Ms. Karat referred to the recent killings in Haryana and said the Chief Minister sought to say it was a social issue and had this factor had to be borne in mind in dealing with such cases. She suggested the government enact separate laws to deal with honour killings, amend the Special Marriage Act to make it easier, create a model act for States wherein government could move against caste panchayats and provide more protection homes of women being persecuted in the name of honour killing.

Najma Heptulla said the police often failed to act since its personnel too belonged to one caste or the other, while Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said the government should instil the fear of law to stop such incidents.

D. Raja (CPI) felt caste panchayats defied the constitutional system and got political support, while Tarlochan Singh (Independent) said the dictates of caste panchayats could be likened to acts of the Taliban.

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