What is the issue ?
- Supreme Court has ruled that informal institutions like khap panchayats cannot stop marriages between two adults as it violates their fundamental right to choice and dignity.
What are khap panchayats ?
- They are caste or community groups which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce harsh punishments based on age old customs.
What did the Supreme Court observe ?
- Any kind of torture or torment or ill-treatment in the name of honour that tantamounts to atrophy of choice of an individual relating to love and marriage by any assembly, whatsoever nomenclature it assumes, is illegal and cannot be allowed a moment of existence.
- When two adults marry out of their volition, they choose their path; they consummate their relationship; they feel that it is their goal and they have the right to do so.
- Class honour, howsoever perceived cannot smother the choice of an individual which he or she is entitled to enjoy under our compassionate Constitution.
Directions given by the Supreme Court :
- The district magistrate or police chief have to provide couples, who risk the wrath of khap panchayats, not only with logistics and protection at their wedding but also a “safe house” to stay during the first year of marriage.
- The safe house, located in the same district or elsewhere, can accommodate the couple for a nominal charge.
- State governments have to establish safe houses in district headquarters. But before the district magistrate or the police chief take the couple under their official protection, they have to assess whether the “bachelorbachelorette are capable adults.”
- The safe houses would function under the direct supervision of the jurisdictional District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police.