Thursday, March 29, 2018

India Supreme Court Orders Protection For Inter-Religious Marriages

In Vahini v. Union of India, (India Sup. Ct., March 27, 2018), a 3-judge panel of the India Supreme Court in a 54-page opinion ordered India's central government and its state governments to take various measures to prevent assemblies of Khap Panchayats -- community assemblies that decide to take steps to prevent inter-caste or inter-religious marriages through violence or honor killing. The court ordered state governments to identify areas where honor killings or Khap Pahchayats have been reported in the last 5 years, and take special steps in those areas.  Authorities are to warn against action when they receive a tip.  The court went on:
Despite taking such measures, if the meeting is conducted, the Deputy Superintendent of Police shall personally remain present during the meeting and impress upon the assembly that no decision can be taken to cause any harm to the couple or the family members of the couple, failing which each one participating in the meeting besides the organisers would be personally liable for criminal prosecution. He shall also ensure that video recording of the discussion and participation of the members of the assembly is done on the basis of which the law enforcing machinery can resort to suitable action....
Despite the preventive measures taken by the State Police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that the Khap Panchayat has taken place and it has passed any diktat to take action against a couple/family of an inter-caste or inter-religious marriage (or any other marriage which does not meet their acceptance), the jurisdictional police official shall cause to immediately lodge an F.I.R. under the appropriate provisions of the Indian Penal Code....
Additionally, immediate steps should be taken to provide security to the couple/family and, if necessary, to remove them to a safe house within the same district or elsewhere keeping in mind their safety and threat perception.
India Today reports on the decision.