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Centre wants police to go easy on runaway couples

ABRAHAM THOMAS IN THE DAILY PIONEER

Easing the legal barriers for inter-caste, inter-religious and sagotra (same gotra) marriages, the Centre has recommended the Supreme Court to restrain police from slapping kidnapping and abduction charges in cases where the girl has exercised her independent choice.

The suggestion has come in a PIL filed by NGO Shakti Vahini where the apex court is examining methods to curb honour killings and the role of khap panchayats in instigating killing of young runaway couples who marry against the wishes of parents and community.

Stating that its suggestion would help curb honour killings, the note prepared by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaising said, “Before any FIR is lodged under IPC Section 361 (kidnapping) or 362 (abduction) or 366 (kidnapping for marriage) in relation to a woman who has attained the age of discretion (18 years), the police may be directed that the wishes of the woman must be ascertained and if she has voluntarily decided to marry a person of her choice, no case under Section 361, 362 or 366 must be recorded on the complaint of the parents.”

The note has been filed before the bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai ahead of the hearing of the case listed for March 5. The khap panchayat members have also filed a 10-page note in Court demanding a ban on sagotra marriages stating it was detrimental to their culture and practice. They, however, denied any role in honour killings, blaming the individual parents for the crime.

The Law Commission, in recognition of this right, had framed the Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference) for the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill 2010, pending consideration with the Centre. The note prepared by Jaising felt this step was not enough as “honour killings happen mainly in cases where girls within the age group of 16 to 18 years choose to marry against the custom, into a different caste or religion or community or within the same gotra.” The parents of the girl lodge a FIR that leads to their harassment. This makes them fall prey to honour crimes and diktats of khap panchayat.

Jaising was of the view that instead of taking recourse to a complaint of kidnapping, the case must be dealt under the Child Marriages Prohibition Act 2006 which can nullify a marriage made against the choice of a girl under 18 years and also prescribes punishment for those indulging in or solemnizing such marriages.

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