THE SUPREME Court on Tuesday said “any adult” has the “right to marry anyone”, and nobody, including parents, khap panchayats or society, can question their choice of spouse.
“Any adult girl or adult man has the right to marry anyone of their choice. No panchayat, no society, no parent can question this,” said a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. “Whenever there is any kind of collective attack on a boy or girl who are adults, it is absolutely illegal,” it said.
The Bench was hearing a petition filed by NGO Shakthi Vahini, which asked the court to direct the central and state governments to take action to prevent honour crimes.
The remarks came in response to submissions by D P Vats, a retired Lieutenant General and a former chairman of the Haryana Public Service Commission, who sought to intervene on behalf of khap panchayats. He contended that khaps were often misunderstood.
“Whatever the amicus curiae may say about khap panchayats, we are not concerned. What we are concerned with is the freedom of an adult girl or boy to pick their spouse,’’ said the CJI. “Absolutely, you cannot assert on the boy or the girl,” he told Vats, who replied that the khaps too were changing.
“Changes do not take place in a regressive manner,” said the CJI.
Vats said the khaps were not opposing lawful marriages. He said many were now marrying outside their communities due to the skewed sex ratio, and such marriages were being accepted.
“So there’s no question of not accepting,” he said.
The Bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said nobody could threaten a boy or girl not to marry.
“That’s a thing of the past,” said Vats.
“Very good… it means you are supporting the stand of the amicus curiae,” responded the CJI. The Bench listed the matter for further hearing on February 5.
The NGO had moved the top court in 2010, seeking directions to the central and state governments to take measures to prevent and control honour crimes.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had invited khap panchayats to give their views. The Centre had asked the court to put in place a mechanism to monitor crimes against women by khap panchayats.
The Supreme Court had said that as a pilot project, it would examine the situation in three districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where khap panchayats are active. It had summoned the Superintendents of Police of Rohtak and Jind districts of Haryana and Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh to apprise it of the prevailing situation.
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