Reading the riot act, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it was “absolutely illegal” for anyone to attack couples marrying outside their caste and warned the government that if it did not bring a legislation to protect such couples, the court would lay down guidelines.
Referring a couple of times to the murder of Nitish Katara by the kin of the girl he was in love with, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud minced no words in slamming organised violence against inter-caste couples, especially by khap panchayats.
“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.
A former lieutenant general attempted to dispel the negative notion about khaps and said it was because of their efforts that things had started changing in these panchayats and the sex ratio in northern states, especially Haryana, had improved.
The bench said, “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.”
Appearing as amicus curiae, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran told the bench that the Law Commission, in its 242nd report, had proposed a law for freedom of matrimonial alliances. “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,” he said.
Ramachandran said he had given his suggestions on this issue, raised by a PIL filed by NGO ‘Shakti Vahini’, months ago and the Centre was yet to spell out its stand. Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general Pinky Anand sought three weeks for the government to submit its suggestions.
The bench said, “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.”
The bench asked the ASG to submit the Centre’s stand in two weeks and posted the PIL for hearing on February 5.