SC warns Khap, says them not to become self-appointed conscience keepers

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The Supreme Court on Monday adopted a tough line against interference by khap panchayats in inter-caste and inter-faith marriages, and advised them against behaving like conscience keepers of society.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said it would set up a high-level committee consisting of senior police officers to deal with issues relating to intervention in marriages by bodies such as khap panchayats.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Shakti Vahini in 2010, seeking that the central and state governments be directed to take measures for preventing and controlling honour crimes.

The Supreme Court by and by descended intensely on the self-named "khap panchayats", soliciting how they have moved toward becoming keepers of the law, and completely decided that relational unions between two grown-ups won't have any outsider impedance, neither from the guardians nor the state.

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The court was told that the khaps were strongly opposed to honour killings. Activist Madhu Kishwar had requested the court to also look at Ankit murder, but Court said this khap matter is a separate case and can't be taken along with it. "What we are concerned is that if an adult girl or boy gets into marriage, no khap, no individual or no society can question them". One such "khap" panchayat leader in Haryana in 2012, according to a Times of India report, blamed chowmein for the rise in rape cases in India.

We are not concerned about tradition, gotra etc. If something is illegal, the law and courts will take care not the Khaps, the court said. "Two persons marry...they are adults...you are no one to interfere in it".

Last month, the Supreme Court of India had termed as "absolutely illegal" any attack by "khap panchayats" or their associates against adult men and women opting for inter-caste marriage, said India Today.

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.

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