NEW DELHI: Terming as "agonising" the effect that honour killings have on society, the Supreme Court today laid down preventive, remedial and punitive measures, including discouraging any illegal assemblies of khap panchayats and providing security to couples and their families, to deal with the issue till a law is framed on it.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said that the Constitution and the laws "do not countenance" such acts by the khap panchayats, stressing that remedial steps would include lodging of an FIR, investigation of the crime with promptitude, as well as booking all participants of the illegal assembly, without any exception.
In its verdict, the bench also laid down the punitive steps which include departmental action against officials and police officers who do not comply with the guidelines and turn a blind eye to such incidents, creation of special cells in every district to deal with complaints of couples under threat and setting up fast track courts to hear such matters.
The top court said trial in the fast-track courts "must proceed on day to day basis to be concluded preferably within six months.
"The whole activity of khap panchayats " is illegal and punishable as offence under the criminal law", the bench said.
"To meet the challenges of the agonising effect of honour crime, we think that there have to be preventive, remedial and punitive measures," the bench said and added that the guidelines laid down by it have to be carried out within six weeks from today by the state governments.
The preventive measures laid down by the top court focus on discouraging holding of any meeting by 'khap panchayat' to deal with matters of inter-caste or inter-faith marriages.
'Khaps' are self-appointed village courts, representing a clan or a group of clans, which are found mostly in northern India, especially in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
These have emerged as quasi-judicial bodies that pronounce harsh punishments based on age-old customs and traditions, often bordering on regressive measures.
The steps directed by the apex court include identification of the districts where such incidents occur, increased vigilance in those areas, preventing illegal assembly of such khap panchayats by interacting with them or by using force, video recording of the meetings (if held), invoking prohibitory orders and arresting the participants.
The top court said that if in spite of the preventive steps, an illegal assembly is held and a diktat is issued by the 'khap', then the remedial measures would into effect.
It said that the remedial steps would include providing security to those whose lives are under threat, lodging of an FIR, investigation of the crime with promptitude, ascertaining authenticity and gravity of the couple's complaint of the threat as well as booking all the persons concerned, including participants of the assembly, without any exception.