Civil society groups in Rajasthan have objected to the provision for death sentence in the recently passed Bill on honour killings in the state Assembly.
In a joint statement, activists Aruna Roy, Kavita Srivastava, Nikhil Dey, Anant Bhatnagar, and several others, said they oppose the death penalty in the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, which was passed in Assembly on Monday, along with Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill. The activists praised the Bills but said that these required some changes.
They say that the Bill against honour killing is “flawed” as it does not clearly include the parents and family of the aggrieved as those who will interfere with the alliance, and instead only makes the unlawful assembly guilty of such a crime. “Their crime will have to be proved as a part of the unlawful Assembly,” they said. Second, they say that the Bill provides no provision of giving a declaration by the couple, in a situation of violence, so that a civil injunction against the violators can be obtained.
As for the Bill against mob lynching, they say that the concept of dereliction of duty by a public servant is not included in the Bill. “This concept of the neglect of duties by the public servant which makes those implementing the law accountable, needs to be included,” they said.
“Our argument is that such a regime would create fear in the minds of the public servant and make them responsible and accountable. The Supreme Court goes to the extent of emphasising that both, the departmental action which should be taken to its logical conclusion and criminal proceedings, should be undertaken. The bill is silent on this,” they say. They also say that the responsibilities of the state-level authorities, such as the DGP and Home Secretary, have not been clearly defined in this Bill.
On August 2, they had also sent letters to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, suggesting several changes in the Bills. Kavita Srivastava, along with inputs by senior lawyer Indira Jaising, had termed the honour killing Bill “flawed”, and commented that the emphasis is only on interference in matrimonial alliances, not the right to choice, “which is the more important part, and should have been included, as every other day, there are diktats and denials related to choices of girls, from wearing clothes, to having a friend or keeping a mobile among other things.”
Activists also complained about the short time they had to study and discuss the Bills, stating that “now that the bills have been passed, we are appealing to the Government to amend the laws through an Ordinance at the earliest.”