Honour Killing: In the name of false honour

INTRODUCTION

Honour Killings has existed in our society for a long period of time. These crimes are associated with the context of culture or are practised in the name of culture. Hence, it is safe to say that it is one of the most prevalent forms of cultural crimes.[1] The victim member of the family is cut off from the society, killed by the members of the family (generally men) wherein they believe that the victim harmed the honour of the family, so as to maintain the societal status of the family the victim is punished.[2]

The victim of these heinous crimes in most of the cases are female who are not only killed but are also subject to torture, assault, harassment on bizarre grounds like the way of living, dressing style, affair, sexual orientation, etc

The existence of such crimes clearly depicts that our society is witnessing the tussle between the matter of morality, ethics and patriarchy.[3] Thus, there is a very important requirement of proper legal framework, policies and administration with appropriate execution and awareness. Accordingly, the present article consists of the determinants of the crime, judicial decisions and the legal framework prevailing in our country.


MEANING OF “HONOUR” KILLINGS AND ITS DETERMINANTS

The Hindu dharma lays that the honour of a family can be upheld only by actions and if any action is against the norms then it may be termed as inappropriate.[4] The notion of honour varies from gender-to-gender basis; the measures of honour for men and women differ drastically. As a result, the victim has to encounter various folds of discrimination disregarding gender vulnerabilities.[5]

“Honour” killings are the act of violence by the family members against another member who is believed to have lowered the honour/respect/status of the family. It is a crime against women or men who are deemed to have acted against the norms of the family or society.[6] The Supreme Court quoted this crime as a barbaric act and the person committing the same deserves severe penalizing.[7] The law does not give authority to anyone to take someone’s life and one shall not take law in his own hands by committing such offence.

Further, the determinants of the crime as mentioned above is mainly the fact that the family believes the victim to have brought dishonour. The understanding of “dishonour” is different for different families.[8] In certain cases, the rape victims are murdered for not being able to defend the dignity of the family.[9] In rural as well as urban areas, the show of abuse to teach the victim a lesson is getting worse. Other reasons for the offence can be: refusing for an arranged marriage, rumours about the family, homosexuality, influence by the society and many more.[10] In various cases, wherein the police are involved they often tend to abide by the instructions of the family members instead of helping the victim, which clearly depicts the comparatively greater influence of social norms compared to that of legal frameworks.[11]


ANALYSIS OF THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The position of India in this aspect is not very praiseworthy. Most of the cases of Honour Killings are not reported, not only by the media but also by the State. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report of the year 2018, places like Gujarat and Delhi reported only one case, whereas, Tamil Nadu reported no cases. Although, studies conducted by an NGO in Tamil Nadu shows that a total number of cases in the State was about 195.[12] The lack of a proper legal framework is the major reason why many honour killing cases are underreported in India.[13]

There is no specific provision which deals with this matter, however, in criminal law, the “honour” killings get diluted under the ambit of the provision of ‘murder’ under the Penal Code[14]. However, the court has strived to provide for various measures and important decisions.[15] Various decisions laid by the judiciary are mentioned hereunder.


Judicial Decisions:

The Supreme Court by upholding Article 21 of the Indian Constitution held that if the petitioner is a major and sane then he/she is sui juris, as a result, there shall be no restriction placed upon his/her decision.[16] Moreover, in the case of Selvi & Ors. v. Stae of Karnataka the court held that a person has a right to live as per his/her choice without any restraint, threat or violence.[17] Various cases in this regard has followed the judgement of the Lata Singh’s case[18], the Apex court by dealing with this matter stated that the use of threats is illegal and India being a free democratic country provides all the citizens with freedom and equal rights. The said case also laid directions to the officials so as to take preventive measures for honour crimes.

There have also been judgements made in regard to the practice of Khap Panchayats. In the case of Arumugam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu[19], the court deplored the practice of the Khap Panchayats and stated that taking laws into one’s hand and indulging in violence activities is against the law.

The decisions given by the courts are varied, in some cases, the court has taken a conservative view, like in the case of Jagtar Singhor Dilip P. Tiwari[20] the court lessened the sentence of the offender and gave eccentric reasoning. Whereas the judgement of Bhagwan Dass’s[21] case portrayed a different view as the court stated that honour crimes fall under the ambit of rarest of rare cases, and such crimes should be stamped out of the nation.

By the abovementioned cases, it can be observed that the lack of legal framework on the matter of “Honour” Killings results in a varied decision and in certain cases these judgements are conflicting as well. However, it can be interpreted that the basic ground on which the decisions are expressed is ‘rule of law’ i.e., the law does not allow anyone to take someone’s life.


Recent Statistics and Status of Bill Proposed in India:

The report of the Special Rapporteur, 2002 stipulated that the cases of honour killings had been reported in Pakistan, Morocco, Turkey, Yemen and also in the countries like France, Germany and it is more common in the migrant section. [22] Also, the countries like India, Israel, Italy, etc have also reported an increase of such crimes.[23] One in five incidents of honour killing every year comes from India, according to United Nations figures. Moreover, among the 5000 globally recorded cases, 1000 are from India.[24] These statistics and cases mentioned specifically above warrants for the introduction of a systematic law against such heinous crimes.

In India, a Bill was proposed in this regard. The title of the same was “The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill”. The bill proposed preventive measures, punishments and it also proposed the amendment of Section 300 of the Indian Penal code, 1860. However, after a discussion, the Law Commission was of the view that existing provisions are sufficient as to cover all the acts related to killing and the rationale of varied motive is not very strong reasoning for the creation of a new provision. Like the bill entitled, “The Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly Bill, 2011” was also proposed so as to prevent assemblies and masses. However, when we observe the provisions of the Penal Code, it can be stated that the provisions are sufficient to punish the preparators of honour crimes. Provisions like Section 299-304, 307, 308, 120 A and B, 107 – 116, 34-35 does provide for the law related to the punishment for murder, culpable homicide, abetment and offences committed by several people respectively.

It has been a long time since the bill was proposed, still, no proper framework or policy has been brought into force. Thus, there is an important need for implementation of a strong law that will provide protection, awareness and punishment for the preparators.


CONCLUSION

The ideology behind “Honour” killing is to protect the honour of the family, however, people tend to forget that there is no honour in killing a fellow individual. The law does not provide any culture, the right to punish someone and thus, take laws in one’s hand. There is a requirement for a significant step towards redressing these issues and a systematic law recognising the gravity and punishment for such crimes and also steps as to curb such acts would be very important towards the betterment of the present situation. These cultural offences are a threat to humanity and as a result, it will lower the progress of our country, until and unless everyone feels safe in their own homes, India cannot be termed as developed. Therefore, it is important to spread awareness and to seriously deal with such issues and to have proper statistical data so that the actual impact and the gravity of such crimes can be determined.


[1] Anand Mishra, Honour Killings: The Law it is and the Law it ought to be, Manupatra, (5th January, 2021), http://www.manupatra.com/roundup/337/Articles/Honour%20Killing.pdf. [2] R. Preethi & A. Sreelatha, Honour Killing in India, Vol. 120 No. 5 Indian Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IJPAM), 1528 (2018). [3] Sandhya Kumari, ‘Honour’ Crimes and Killings: Humanity Ask for A Comprehensive Mechanism, Vol. 41(1) & (2) Indian Journal of Criminology, 1 (2013). [4] Ibid. [5] Chatterjee, Chandrima & Sheoran, Gunjan, Vulnerable Groups in India, The CEHAT, Mumbai, May (2007). [6] Kortweg, Anna, Understanding Honour Killing and Honour-Related Violence in the Immigration Context: Implications of the Legal Profession and Beyond, Vol.16(2) Canadian Criminal Law Review, 135-160 (2012). [7] Lata Singh v. State of UP & Anr., (2006) 5 SCC 475. [8] Supra note 1. [9] Nordland, Rod, Rape Victim faces Honour Killing, New York Times News Service, The Hindu, 21st July, 2014. [10] Supra note 2, p.1532. [11] Singh, Shiv Sahay, Now, Ostracism haunts Family of Gang Rape Victim at Sulabhpur, The Hindu, 26th January, 2014. [12] Honor Killing Data, (7th January, 21) https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx6d-tmLwTV-UVFRU3FJdE5uUXUwMVNmRDl5ajFyTGpNd05F/view. [13] Anugraha Sundaravelu, Why India Needs a Separate Law for Honour Killings, (21st April, 2020) https://theswaddle.com/honor-killings-india-law/. [14] Indian Penal Code, 1860. [15] Supra note 3. [16] Gian Devi v. Superintendent, Nari Niketan, Delhi, (1976) 3 SCC 234. [17] (2010) 7 SCC 319. [18] Supra note 7. [19] (2011) 6 SCC 405. [20] State of Punjab vs Jagtar Singh & Ors, (2011) 14 SCC 678. [21] Bhagwan Dass vs State (NCT), Delhi (2011) 6 SCC 396. [22] Unhchr.ch, (6th January, 2021) http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/e06a5300f90fa0238025668700518ca4/ [23] Unhchr.hr (6th January, 2021) http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/e06a5300f90fa0238025668700518ca4/985168f508ee799fc1256 [24] Honour Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA). Statistics. (07th January, 2021) Available at: http://hbvawareness.com/statistics-data/.


Submitted by,

Aprajita Mishra,

Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.

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