Khap Panchayat Interference In Marriage Between Consenting Adults Is Illegal, Says Supreme Court

| March 27 , 2018 , 12:53 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a strict directive to Khap Panchayats, stating that any attempt to interfere in a marriage between two consenting adults is illegal.

“If people decide to marry, they are adults and you are nobody to interfere,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said in response to a plea seeking a ban on Khap Panchayats so as to check increasing instances of honour killing.

Khap panchayat or any assembly attempting to scuttle the marriage between two consenting adults is “absolutely illegal”, the Supreme Court said.

Until such time that a legislation could be put in place, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, laid down certain punitive and remedial measures.

Justice Misra added that a Khap Panchayat could not summon adults and question their choice of marriage partner, warning that if the centre failed to take steps to stop the interference of Khap Panchayats, the court would step in.

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The court had been responding to a 2010 petition given by NGO Shakti Vahini against Khap Panchayats, which sought directions to centre and state government to prevent honour crimes. In village scenarios, Khap Panchayats have often acted as unofficial conscience keepers of society, especially in cases of inter-caste and inter-faith marriages even of consenting adults.

Through their counsel, the Khap Panchayats in their defence said that they had been encouraging inter-caste and inter-faith marriages and were not against such marriages.

Khap Panchayats are caste or community organizations in villages which often act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce punishments based on customs and traditions.