Author: Megala. S, V Year of B.C.A.,LL.B from School Of Excellence in Law, Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai.
Co-author: Nithyaa. H, V Year of B.C.A.,LL.B from School Of Excellence in Law, Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai.
‘The husband was killed by the wife’s family in front of his wife'. "I pleaded with my brother, saying spare Nagaraju; I will come home". 1 It is said that their marriage was supposed to be an inter-caste and inter-religion one. Sultana’s family, especially her brother, wanted her to get married to a Muslim, but she refused as she was blindly in love with Nagaraju, a Dalit Hindu. Her brother had pre-planned and killed her husband. Why did they kill her husband? Is that because she did not listen to his brother? It was because she married a Dalit, who belongs to a lower caste, whereas she belonged to an upper community. Either the husband or his wife is murdered for honor and dignity. A man who belongs to a lower caste and is of a different religion gets married to an upper caste and woman of a different religion, and, conversely, they both are subjected to honor killing.
Honor killing is a culturally traditional crime where the assassination of an individual is done to preserve their dignity, self-esteem, and respect. Many customs have been banned in India that violate a human’s basic rights. Honor killing is unquestionably playing a considerable role in India. There are many cases in existence that are being reported each and every day. The younger generation falls for each other, thus leading to marriage. Though they knew the outcome that they would face in the future, they did indeed marry for the sake of love and in the belief that their parents would accept them. In some cases, both are sufficiently educated and even have the perfect job for their survival.
They will lead a better life, as ‘understanding’ between each other plays a major role in taking life to the next stage. Marrying a stranger is fine in this society, but marrying one we know is strictly prohibited by our whole family. The father, out of rage, kills the newlyweds. The reason behind this is to retain their pride. If the family leaves the matter aside, the society forces them to commit such a crime, or they themselves commit it for their nobility and fame.
Not only that, they are also killed by them, but also due to their caste, like, for example, if he is from an upper class and marries a woman from a lower class, it is guaranteed that they will be killed by their own family or by their clan.
Few parents exist who agree and support their children’s intercaste or interreligious marriage. At the same time, these parents are also compelled by society to murder their own child. It also essentially contravenes the fundamental rights that are enshrined in our Indian Constitution.
Honor killing is one of the contemporary legal issues and a controversial topic that’s happening in India. Numerous laws are present in India to protect the victims from honor killings, but the government must take mandatory steps to make them more effective. The systems that were practiced in ancient days, like the Sati system, the Devadasi system, the Purdah system, child marriage, and other social evils, were either abolished by Indian reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, by the British Government, which ruled our land for more than 80 years, or by the Indian Government later for the welfare of the society. Similarly, our Indian government must effectively put an end to honour killing.
Honor killing is also known as "customary killing." Honor killing is nothing but murdering our own children to retain the so-called family’s image, which has been demolished in the society. This customary killing has been in existence for many years, and it is still prevalent in recent days, which are inevitable.
Technologies have made an extreme difference in everyone’s life. Even these days, many illiterate people are aware of the technology. People change according to the situation and circumstances. But why has the idea of honor killing been inculcated in the roots of many people these days that are advanced in technology? Parents teach their children about their caste and religion. They make him choose his companions only from those with whom their caste matches up.
The United Nations has estimated that 5,000 women are victims of honor killings each year. 2 The United Nations Human Rights Chief states, "So-called "Honor Killing’ is an extreme symptom of discrimination against women, which, including other forms of domestic violence, is a plague that affects every country". 3 The extent of honor killings varies from state to state and country to country. This practice has been largely found in many countries, like in South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan. India is one of the highest-rated countries for honor killing.
The term ‘Khap’ comes from the latin word "Corpus," which means an association of individuals. The term ‘Panchayat’ means a gathering of five judicious and esteemed seniors selected and accepted by the village people. This Khap Panchayat is believed to have been started during the 6th century. A Khap Panchayat is said to be the Kangaroo Courts, which consist of the same clans or castes. These panchayats encouraged honor killing, and the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional and against the law.
Khap Panchayats are not officially acknowledged by any laws in India, but village people still believe the Khap’s decision, and they think it is time-saving rather than approaching the courts. The people believe in the verdict because the senior members give their decision in favor of honor killing, and the Khap also supports it. Khap Panchayats are still in existence illegally near North India.
Honor Killing in India
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution-
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides provisions for the right to life. It covers not only the right to live but also the right to live with human dignity. People also have the right to pollution-free food and air. Various rights like the right to sleep, the right to health and medical assistance, the right to privacy, and many more are mentioned in this article.
Laws relating to honor killing are covered under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Honor killing is majorly connected with the concepts of "right to life" and "right to die." All the existing laws are meant for the people who are alive in this society, but do we have a right to live such a life or not? What if we are not satisfied with the life we are living? Are we free from laws that prohibit committing suicide? As such, many questions arise, and all of that has been discussed under Article 21 of our Indian Constitution. First of all, the right to die or to commit suicide is not legal in India. No laws have been enacted to encourage the death of a person in any way. Moreover, the right to die is not a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In the case of Chenna Jagdeeswar v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 4 held that the right to die is not a fundamental right. No person has the right to end their life, and Section 309 of the IPC is not unconstitutional.
In the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, the court overruled the decision in the case of Rathinam and held that the right to life under Article 21 includes only the right to love and does not include any right to die or be killed. 5 It was also added that the right to live is a natural right and the right to die is not a natural death. It is an unnatural attempt, and therefore it is not covered under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. But the right to live also includes the right to live with human dignity, because without dignity, no human can survive. 6
We hereby conclude that India, being a diversified country, consists of a lot of people belonging to different races, castes, religions, and sexes. The people of India are protected under the fundamental rights that are present under Part III of the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution and the legislative drafters have been taking many steps to enhance the effectiveness of the laws they have made to protect the people from all kinds of offenses.
Honor killing has been secretly supported by many individuals. Though we think this practice is a religious one, it is actually a cultural one that has been followed for many years. Educated people know the value of a life, but the uneducated are totally insane. A group of people killing an individual for marrying another who both belong to a different caste or religion is just because they think that both have committed a sin, so they are taking initiatives to clean it up. Men and women are equally victims of honor killing. When either the men or women affect the reputation of their caste and community, they are killed mercilessly. The victim’s family, in return, kills the legal heir of the other family, thinking that justice will prevail for the victim, who is dead and buried.
When we have the provisions to follow any religion or caste as a person wishes, it doesn't mean that they are supposed to follow only the religion they were born in. In the same place in the constitution where the provisions follow the desired religion, it also has provisions for equality. Every single person has an equal chance of making life decisions.
The Constitution of India is considered and believed to be the supreme law of the country. Such supremacy law framers will definitely have undergone many aspects of this society before finally framing this constitution. Each and every right provided under our constitution has a meaning, and there is no provision embodied in our constitution as a right to die. Living a life and getting into this world are natural sciences, and getting out of this world should also be a natural science. Article 14 says everyone in this country is equal before the law, and then it says how a person will be granted a privileged right to kill another person, that too in the name of honor.
This is no way acceptable. If honor killing is permitted by legal status, then the number of murders that will happen will be countless. Enacting a law in favor of honor killing will not be a wise act because, as we all know, in this same privileged society, many people are torturing their own elderly parents just for the sake of gaining assets in their name. If any enactments appear to be in favor of honor killing, then for those people, the name of honor killing becomes a weapon to cover their murder attacks on older people. This practice of killing will be followed up by the future generation, and there will be no end to it. Our Indian government must take a strong stance in this matter. The decisions by the Khap Panchayats should be totally banned. Laws and punishment for offenses are not that effective in India regarding honor killing. Strict rules and principles should be enforced so that people will come to understand the importance of life. Punishments should be made more indestructible.
As we all know, India being the world’s largest democratic country, we the people of India have many rights, like the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to make independent decisions, the right to life, the right to vote, and many others. An individual should be independent and free from everything, which even includes marrying another individual. Honour killing is similar to homicide. The difference between homicide and honour killing is that homicide does not affect the society at large, whereas honour killing does, as it is the greatest evil. Rape has been considered an offence under Indian law, but what about marital rape? Likewise, homicide has been subjected to special treatment, like punishing the accused with death and penalty under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, and there is Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, which speaks about “culpable homicide”. Whereas we do have provisions for honour killing, there are rarely any sections, articles, or clauses to speak vividly about it. The Government has to strike down this practice strictly.
Balakrishna Ganeshan, “I pleaded with my brother saying spare Nagaraju, I will come home”, The Newsminute – https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/i-pleaded-my-brother-saying-spare-nagaraju-i-will-come-home-sultana-speaks-163707
Matthew A. Goldstein, The Biological Roots of Heat of Passion Crimes and Honour Killing [Politics and Life Science] 28-37 (Cambridge University Press, UK, Sep., 2002)
Ms. Pillay, “ Impunity for domestic violence, ‘Honour killings’- UN official”, The UN News – https://news.un.org/en/story/2010/03/331422
Chenna Jagdeeswar v. State of Andhra Pradesh [(1988) Cr LJ 549)] – https://indiankanoon.org/doc/146939/
Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab [(1996) 2 SCC 648] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/217501/#:~:text=The%20appellants%20Gian%20Kaur%20and,of%20suicide%20by%20Kulwant%20Kaur.
Dr. J. N. Pandey, Constitutional Law of India 294 (Fifty Fifth Edition, 2018)
Indian Penal Code, 1860 – https://www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/2263?sam_handle=123456789/1362
Constitution of India – i87https://www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/15240?locale=en