While hearing a 2010 case filed by NGO Shakti Vahini asking for a ban on Khap panchayats from interrupting in marriages between consenting adults, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that such interference is “absolutely illegal”.

The apex court bench of A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, headed by CJI Deepak Mishra, also formulated penalizing guidelines for offending Khap panchayat members till a legislation comes into place, reported Mint.

On March 7, SC reserved its judgment in the case as the Centre said that all states will set up special units to protect couples who marry outside their castes.

During the hearing, the counsel for Khap panchayats argued that the community encourages inter-caste marriages but discourages close blood relatives marrying among Hindus.

“We are not talking about individuals. But there is a serious problem which inter-caste couples face. Wherever there is any kind of collective attack on an adult boy or an adult girl, because they chose their life partners, it is absolutely illegal,” – SC

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Earlier in January, the bench had referred to the 2002 Nitish Katara murder case where a business executive, Katara fell in love with the daughter of a powerful politician of Uttar Pradesh, DP Yadav. While both Katara and Bharti Yadav loved each other, the brother of the girl, Vikas, and their cousin, Vishal, abducted Katara and killed him as he was from a different caste.

“We are not talking about individuals. But there is a serious problem which inter-caste couples face. Wherever there is any kind of collective attack on an adult boy or an adult girl, because they chose their life partners, it is absolutely illegal,” the bench had said.

It added, “Take it from us, we are not concerned with khaps at all. But we will make it crystal clear that an adult girl and an adult boy can get into a marriage alliance of their choice. No panchayat, khap, individual or even parents can question such a decision, be the marriage inter-caste or otherwise.”

The Khap later responded to SC’s statements alleging Khap meddles with inter-faith marriages. “We respect the Supreme Court but cannot tolerate the apex court’s interference in our age-old traditions. If SC passes these kinds of orders, we will stop producing girls or won’t let them study so much that they start taking their own decisions. Just think, what will happen to society if girls become lesser and lesser in numbers?” said the head of Balyan Khap, Naresh Tikait, in conversation with TOI.

Picture credit- DailyO

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