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Safe houses should be made available in Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh for runaway couples: HC

The bench of Justice Avneesh Jhingan suggested these steps while hearing a runway couple’s plea seeking protection after they received no help from police.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
Updated: March 12, 2021 11:45:29 am
Supreme Court, religious conversionThe bench also suggested that Legal Service Authorities (LSA) set up 24x7 help desk for such couples with telephone service and internet connectivity at the local level. (Representational Photo)

THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court has suggested that safe houses be made available in each district of Punjab, Haryana, as well as in UT Chandigarh for the protection of couples who marry against the wishes of their families.

The bench of Justice Avneesh Jhingan suggested these steps while hearing a runway couple’s plea seeking protection after they received no help from police.

Justice Jhingan said, “A number of such petitions are being filed by couples who performed marriage against the wishes of their parents and relatives. This court is also being approached by couples stating to be in a live-in relationship…The non-acceptability of inter-caste marriage is a social problem which needs to be dealt at multifarious levels. The inter-caste is not the only reason for non-acceptability of marriage, there are numerous other socio-economic reasons acting as hurdles for young couples selecting life partners of their choice.”

Stating that the couples who are apprehending threats have to travel all the way to the HC for completing formalities for filing a writ petition, which further exposes them to threats, and also considering the volume of such type of petitions, Justice Jhingan suggested: “One way to tackle the problem is that safe houses should be made available in each district of both states, as well as in Union Territory Chandigarh.”

“A website or an online module should be provided for such like couples to raise their grievances without being physically present. Providing a 24×7 help desk at tehsil level for filing of such representations by aggrieved persons or through someone can be of great help. An existing cell in police department can be deputed or a new cell can be created which can deal with the representation in a time-bound manner, in any case not beyond 48 hours. It can also be ensured by authorities that in case a request is made by the couples during the period of consideration of the representation, they be provided shelter in a safe house,” said Justice Jhingan.

The bench also suggested that Legal Service Authorities (LSA) set up 24×7 help desk for such couples with telephone service and internet connectivity at the local level.

After the advocate generals for Punjab and Haryana and senior standing counsel for Chandigarh gave a positive response to the suggestion of the court, the bench said, “It is assured that all three of them along with member secretaries of State Legal Services Authorities can sit together, get inputs and try to find a practically workable mechanism to solve the issue.”

On being apprised by Dr Mandeep Mittal, additional secretary, Punjab State Legal Services Authority, that in Punjab there are one-stop centres (Sakhi Centre) run by the health and family welfare department, Punjab, under the supervision of deputy commissioner of each district, which are working only for women victims, the bench said that the scope of work of these centres can be enhanced and their services can be utilised for dealing with the issues of such couples.

“The participation of LSA would also come handy, as some of aggrieved persons may not be even aware as to what and where to represent,” the bench said further.

The bench sought a report before March 22 on the matter, and asked the additional chief secretaries (home) and director generals of police of both the states to provide their full assistance and co-operation while the issue is being considered.

Adjourning the matter of the petitioner couple for March 22, the bench directed that a police official not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police record the statements of the petitioners. In case a request is made by the petitioners, they may be provided shelter in a safe house till the next date.

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