Supreme Court on Khap Panchayats: In a sharp rebuke to the self-styled Khap-panchayats in the country, the Supreme Court on Monday reiterated that no one can interfere in the decision of an adult boy or girl to get married and told them not to “play the (role of) conscience keeper of the society”. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said, “You don’t have to play the conscience keeper of the society. Law and courts will take care of all relationships.” Hearing a petition against the Khap Panchayats today, the Supreme Court asked the central government and petitioners to come up with effective suggestions for the protection of couples in khap panchayat matters. A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra noted that police should be held responsible for protection for couples in such matters.
The bench further stated that the question of whether a marriage is legally valid or not should be left for the courts to decide. “You stay out of it,” the court told the lawyer representing Khap panchayats. “Who appointed the “khap” or anyone as the guardian of law? The law shall take its own course,” CJI Misra asked. When the lawyer representing the “khap panchayats” argued that they stand to protect “age-old traditions”, the bench replied sharply saying, “We are discussing the fundamental issue of marriage between two consenting adults. Khap or anyone can’t decide on the legality of marriage.”
Last month, the SC, protecting the rights of couples marrying outside their caste said, “What we are concerned with is that if an adult girl or boy gets into marriage, no khap, no individual or no society can question them,” the court had said. The apex court had also termed any attack by ‘khap panchayat’ or associations on the couples, who marry outside their caste, as “absolutely illegal”. “Whenever there is any kind of collective attack on a boy or girl who is an adult, it is absolutely illegal,” the court had said.
Khaps are caste or community organisations in villages which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce harsh punishments based on regressive and age-old customs and traditions. In 2010, the NGO had moved the top court seeking directions to the central and state governments to prevent and control honour crimes by taking a number of measures.