Nobody to interfere when two adults marry, SC says to Khap Panchayats

Saul Bowman
February 6, 2018

Observing that "khap panchayats" can not play the role of "conscience keeper of the society" and take law into their hands, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to step in to protect such couples from khaps.

"They do not oppose inter-caste or inter-religious alliances but are only against same gotra marriages as they are the conscience keepers", defended khap panchayats' lawyer. To which, the bench said, "We are not concerned with the Khap Panchayats". On 16 January, it was declared illegal by the court for parents or khap panchayats to interfere in decisions of adult men and women of different castes to marry.

The Center had pleaded with the apex court to put in place a mechanism to monitor crimes against women by khap panchayats, saying that the police was not able to protect such women. As per Section 5 (v) of the Hindu Marriage Act, marriages between Sapindas are prohibited. They oppose marriages on the basis of caste or religion and it has also led to murders.

The bench was headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and included Justice AM Kanwilkar, and Justice DY Chandrachud. But you keep out of it. If a marriage is not permissible under law, there are courts to annul it. Khaps have no business determining the legality of a marriage.


The apex court had earlier said attacks on those opting for inter-caste marriages were "absolutely illegal" and no khap panchayats, individual or society could question any adult woman and man marrying of their own choice. "You can not take the law into your own hands", the bench said.

The bench said "whether the law prohibits or allows a particular marriage, the law will take its own course" but "when two people get into a wedlock, no panchayat, no one should interfere". "No third party shall interfere", Justice Misra said.

"When two people get into wedlock, no one should interfere". "We are not concerned with khaps. Whether marriage is good or bad or is it advisable, we are out of it", the top court added. The court said during the previous hearing that khap panchayat can not threaten adults for marrying each other. Over the years, several murders of such couples have been reported by the media and the role of the khaps in sanctioning these killings has often come to light.

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