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How Haryana changed its mind on honour crime laws

Aditi Tandon/TNS   – New Delhi, November 30

Last November, Haryana took a position before the Supreme Court, currently hearing the honour killing petition, that it agreed with the Centre in amending existing laws to ensure strict action against those involved in honour crimes. A few months down the line, the state took a new position, dissociating itself from the pro-Centre stand it had taken earlier.

The Tribune has in its possession two sets of affidavits that Haryana had filed in the Supreme Court in connection with the ongoing writ petition on honour killings, filed in June 2010 by community-based organisation Shakti Vahini.

In its first affidavit, the state said to the court that it supported Centre’s stand to amend existing statutes and allow stringent legal action against the perpetrators (often khap panchayat members, apart from families of victims). Later, it went back on its position and sought court’s permission to withdraw the old affidavit and file a fresh one in which it had deleted the reference to its agreement with the Centre on changes to the laws to stop honour crimes.

The first affidavit (dated November 30, 2010) was filed by BS Sandhu, Additional Director General Police, Law and Order, Haryana. It listed steps the state was taking to protect runaway couples. In the end, the affidavit explicitly mentions, “In addition to these steps, the state government fully agrees with the Central Government for amendment to the Evidence Act, the IPC, the CrPC and the Special Marriage Act in order to take strict legal action against the accused involved in cases of killing of runaway couples and to prevent harassment of couples.”

However, on April 26 this year, Kamal Mohan Gupta, counsel for the state of Haryana, approached the court, requesting for permission to withdraw the November 30, 2010, affidavit and file a new one. The court allowed a counter-affidavit but placed both affidavits (with contradictory positions) on record. The new affidavit was also filed by BS Sandhu.

The Centre, which had constituted a Group of Ministers on honour crimes, had earlier proposed making honour killings a separate offence under the IPC to bring clarity to law enforcement agencies. Another proposal was to amend the Indian Evidence Act to put the burden of proof on the accused, which means khap panchayats and family members who perpetrated killings would have to prove their innocence.

An amendment was also being conceived for joint liability of the killer and perpetrator. Another change to the Special Marriages Act was being proposed to reduce the cooling off period before a marriage is registered. The period currently is one month.

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