Honour Killing In India: A Legal Perspective

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    INTRODUCTION

    Honour is a prime and valuable asset of human beings. It is an intangible property of both men and women. Honour killing is the killing for the sake of honour. Killing someone in the name of honour is not only against the law but also a significant violation of human rights. Honour cannot be sacrificed either for the individual interest or for the collective interest of the society.

    Honour killing is used to describe the act of killing or harassing someone who marries or intends to marry someone against the wish of their family or rather a community even though it is not a crime to marry someone against the wish of the family of community. Honour killing is unconstitutional in every way. The constitution of India provides inalienable rights to the people of India which includes the “right to life and personal liberty”. Every individual is free to legally marry anyone. This right is accompanied by “right to life”. These rights are enshrined in the Constitution thereby making the killing of someone for the sake of family’s honour illegal and a gross violation of human rights.  This article is an attempt by the author to analyse the concept of honour killing in India and its legal imperatives. 

    Honour killing is a brutal, barbarous and an inhume act which violates the natural rights of the victims. Killing someone only for the sake of the honour does not justify the death of the victim. When the girl or boy or both are killed only because they have married to someone of their own choice, it certainly takes away their right to life. Right to life and personal liberty not only includes the right to privacy but the right to marry anyone and the right to bodily integrity also comes under the purview of the Right of life. Honour killing includes abduction, extortion, murder, mutation, harassment or any kind of heinous act against the victim. Honour killing is often considered the same as murder but it is a more heinous crime as compared to murder. In India, thousands of men and women are killed in the name of honour by the orders of infamous “khap panchayats” merely because they marry or intend to marry someone outside their caste or faith. 

    CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS OF HONOUR KILLING

    Honour killings in India took place when the couple marry or intend to marry outside their caste; against the wish of their family or community.  Khap Panchayats mete outs punishments to the couples who marry the person of the same gotra or contravene any societal norms. Honour Killings are prevalent in the northern states of the country such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Khap Panchayats are an unconstitutional body and not at all any social institution. Every decision or order given by the khap panchayats is declared as unconstitutional by the court. Honour Killings go hand in hand with the illiteracy rates. It is a sort of tug of war between the tradition and modernity. In the patriarchal society, the word “honour” does not reflect the status, money or power of the family but unfortunately, the honour of the family lies in a woman’s chastity. The honour of a woman lies in her chastity whereas the honour of a male depends upon the chaste female members of his family.

    Revision of Women’s Legal Age for Marriage

    Honour is not based on any law, it is not customary as it depends on the unwritten laws of the society which are being followed since the inception of the society itself. The couples are killed because they bring shame and dishonour to the family. They are murdered because they had transgressed the societal norms and went against the laws made by a certain community. Some of the reasons are; pre-marital sex, refuse to enter into an arranged marriage, being a victim of rape or even by pronouncing the religion. Anything which brings dishonour to the family can be a reason for this crime. Honour killing is a gender-based crime and also the least recognised one. It is the most tenacious form of violence against women’s autonomy. It is ordinarily committed by the brother or the father of a girl victim. As a patriarchal society, the activities of the women are monitored by the family members. And their many reasons stated above which can trigger an attack on the girl.  But we cannot avoid the fact that men are also the victims of honour killings. As stated earlier, it is an inhumane act and no society should allow such an act in the name of honour. 

    LEGAL PERSPECTIVE

    There are some statutory provisions related to honour killing. However, there is no separate law regarding the same. To prevent the menace of honour killing there are certain general and special laws which are discussed further. 

    INDIAN PENAL CODE

    As stated earlier, honour killing is considered as murder under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code explains ‘murder’ and Section 302 prescribes the punishment of the murder in the form of either life imprisonment or death. There is no difference between murder and honour killing. Further stated are some provisions related to the honour killing under the Indian Penal Code.

    • SECTION 34: Section 34 talks about common intention. This section says that if any act is committed by several persons (more than one) with a common intention and knowledge then all the persons will be punished in an equal and same manner as if it is done by him or her alone. Therefore, in an honour killing, if there were several persons involved with a common intention of causing the death of the victim then all the persons shall be punished in the same manner under section 302 read with section 34.  
    • SECTION 120A AND 120B: Section 120A talks about criminal conspiracy and section 120B prescribes the punishment of criminal conspiracy. Section 120A which talks about criminal conspiracy is nothing but an agreement between two or more persons to commit any legal act with illegal means. There can be a possibility of the criminal conspiracy before committing the crime. Section 120B prescribes the punishment of criminal conspiracy. It lays down that if any person is a part of the criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for 2 years or above shall be punished in the same manner if he has abetted the offence. 
    • SECTION 304: There are few exceptions to section-300 which amount to culpable homicide not amounting to murder which is punishable under section-304. Section-304 mete out the punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. It says that (1) if the act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death or such bodily harm which is likely to cause death shall be punished with life imprisonment or imprisonment for 10 years and (2) if the act by which death is caused is done with the knowledge that it will cause death but had no intention of causing death or such bodily harm which is likely to cause death shall be punished with imprisonment up to 10 years and or fine.   

    CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS

    The fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution of India are taken away by the honour killing. The right to marry anyone or the right to bodily integrity comes under the purview of ‘Right to life and personal liberty.’ Honour killing is not only illegal but it is indeed a gross violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Further stated are some constitutional provisions related to honour killing. Honour killing violates Article 14 ‘Right to equality’, Article 21 ‘Right to Life’, ‘Right to security’ and ‘Right to Privacy’. 

    CONCLUSION

    As discussed earlier, enactment of certain laws are not enough to combat the menace of honour killing, a comprehensive law may be enacted in order to obtain clarity in the system. We have discussed certain provisions related to honour killing, they have to be properly executed in order to combat honour killing. Also, the constitutional provisions which we discussed earlier should be properly enforced.  Equality plays a key role. It is the need of the hour to bring equality between the sexes. Crimes against women are increasing day by day. It is unfortunate that India has been struggling with the indefinite number of offences against women for a long time. Women are still subjected to victimisation and indiscrimination. It’s true that there has been a shift in the status of women in modern India. And there are certain provisions which are laid down under the fundamental rights, preamble, and directive principles of state policy related to equality between the sexes. There are lots of hurdles in the way of women empowerment but gradually it will be achieved. Laws alone are not enough to eradicate this crime. We need awareness to wipe out this heinous crime. Awareness should be created to make people aware of this social evil and they should also be made aware of the consequences of this menace. 

    ENDNOTES

    1. Available at https://madhurimamenon97.wordpress.com/2016/…/honor-killing-emphasis-on-religion. 
    2. Available at www.oapen.org/search?identifier=340240
    3. shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/89946/13/13_chapter%20-v.pdf.
    4. www.manupatra.com/roundup/337/Articles/Honour%20Killing.pdf.
    5. www.thecreativelauncher.com/upload/4.%20Honour%20Killing%20in%20India.pd

    BY- Parkash Choudhary & Muskan Chhabra

    School of legal studies, Apeejay Stya University, Gurugram, Haryana & New Law College, Pune.

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