Growing cases of violence against inter-caste marriages has led the Supreme Court to demand legislation from the government to protect such couples.  The apex court this week said that it is ‘absolutely illegal’ to harm people for wanting to marry in a different caste.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said that if the government doesn’t bring in a law, then it will formulate guidelines.

The bench referred to the 2002 Nitish Katara murder case a couple of times. 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.

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The SC bench specifically mentioned the Khap panchayat which involves itself in such organised violence against inter-caste couples.

“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 said, TOI reported.

You (the Centre) don’t take these matters seriously. You did not give suggestions in the euthanasia issue also. If the government does not bring in a legislation, then we will evolve a principle and lay down guidelines

But an ex-LG defended Khap Panchayats and said that their initiatives have helped in the rising sex ratio of northern states like Haryana.

“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 bench retorted.

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who acted as amicus curiae, pointed out that the the Law Commission had proposed a law for freedom of matrimonial alliances in its 242nd report.

He added, “The Centre has been seeking time to file its suggestion by taking adjournments from time to time. The Centre has been saying that it has to consult states as law and order is a state subject.”

NGO Shakti Vahini filed a petition against the issue but the Centre is taking time to respond to it. Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, who showed up for the Centre, sought three weeks’ time for the central government to spell out its stand.

“You (the Centre) don’t take these matters seriously. You did not give suggestions in the euthanasia issue also. If the government does not bring in a legislation, then we will evolve a principle and lay down guidelines,” said the bench.

The SC bench gave Centre two weeks to give its suggestion. The next hearing is on February 5.

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