January 18, 2022 8:02:09 pm
The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to file a statement on whether the Supreme Court’s directive for setting up safe houses in every district as well as a special cell in states for couples facing opposition from families and community have been complied with or not.
The high court was responding to a petition by a New Delhi-based NGO Dhanak for Humanity seeking Gujarat High Court’s directive for strict compliance with the Supreme Court judgement.
The petition was filed in 2021 by an interfaith couple from Vadodara through the NGO, who had to escape to New Delhi owing to opposition to their marriage.
The couple had sought the court’s direction to the state to provide protection and joint accommodation at safe houses. During the hearing last year, the state had assured the court that it would provide police protection to the couple.
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When the couple sought police protection, they were informed in a communication by the inspector of Warasiya police station in Vadodara city dated March 3, 2021, that the “police have no provision of safe house”.
The couple eventually took shelter in New Delhi and solemnised their marriage in April, 2021.
In 2018, the SC, in the case of Shakti Vahini versus Union of India and others, had laid down guidelines “to meet the challenges of the agonising effect of honour crime”.
Part of the guidelines had proposed setting up of a safe house at each district headquarter of a state, placed under the supervision of the jurisdictional district magistrate and superintendent of police, so as to grant protection to couples facing opposition from their families, local community or khaps.
While the state government through its assistant government pleader on Tuesday submitted before the court of Justice VD Nanavati that compliance by the state of Gujarat to the guidelines laid down by the SC judgement would be under the scope of a public interest litigation, the court stressed that the “larger interest” has to be looked at.
Advocate Utkarsh Singh, representing the NGO, also informed the court that the NGO is seeking implementation of SC-laid guidelines in five states at present with high courts of Punjab and Haryana, and Chhattisgarh issuing notices to the respective state governments seeking details of safe houses as well as special cells.
To this effect, Justice Nanavati directed the state to file “a statement whether the order passed by SC has been complied with or not”.
The court has given the state time until February 22 to file its compliance report.
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