When Manmeet Singh’s wife disappeared one day, he immediately went to the police station and named eleven people who opposed their marriage and whom he suspected might have abducted her. Her body was found three days later, and the police had done nothing in the interim.
Manmeet Singh filed this petition calling for the investigation into her death to be put into the hands of higher-ranking officers than those who were working on it at the time. The court ruled in favor of the petitioner. It ordered that high-ranking officers be assigned to investigate all deaths that are suspected to be “honour killings.” Specifically, this officer must not be below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, and the investigation would be under the direct supervision of the Senior Superintendent of Police. Additionally, it ordered that a meeting among high-ranking officers of Haryana be convened to develop acceptable protocol for the investigation and prosecution of “honour killings.”
Full Citation: Manmeet Singh vs. State of Haryana and Ors., 2015(2)RCR(Criminal)167
I. Honour killing-yet another instance
1. The counsel for the petitioner would seek for the investigation to be put in the hands of responsible and senior police officer of the rank of not less than Senior Superintendent of Police, since the case of death was an incident of honour killing for the community that could not tolerate a marriage between the petitioner and his wife, who was later murdered.
II. Action by police so far
2. After the marriage with the petitioner, his wife was reported to have been taken way from his (petitioner’s) company stealthily on 30.09.2014 when he had complained to the police listing out 11 names as prime suspects for causing abduction of his wife from his lawful company. No action has been taken till when the police woke up to the situation that the lady had been killed and dead body had been recovered on 02.10.2014. A case of death – was registered and the reply shows that 5 of 11 persons have been challenged, while the investigation is said to be still progressing and the police is on record to state that they have not collected any incriminating materials against the other 6 persons named in the petitioner’s complaint.
V. Law Commission’s recommendation to quell honour killing
5. The grossest dishonour occurring to human beings comes ironically through the expression “honour killings”. The trigger point invariably is the inter-caste marriage of adults or the marriage between persons belonging to a same gotra, perceived as actions against socially accepted norms. The parents themselves become the perpetrators of crimes against their children … The Law Commission, in its 242nd report submitted on 22nd August, 2012, examined whether ‘honour killings’ must be dealt with differently in the manner of court trials through amended provisions of law. … [I]t found that the root cause is invariably the opposition to inter-caste marriages and gotra marriages for the honour killings and there must be a special law that would recognize a different set of principles for quelling the group opposition in the local communities. It, therefore, suggested a new legal framework through a law for Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances (in the name of Honour and Tradition). The recommendations have not so far been put through the legislative anvil to secure any new law on the subject.
VI. Requirement of compulsory registration-Registering Officer’s negative attitude
6. Even attempts in the States of Punjab and Haryana to require compulsory registration of marriages was only touted as a method to ensure that even if there are oppositions, parties could legitimize their relationship through marriages and compulsory registration through an easy process. … Unfortunately, …the Registering Officers just do not register marriages. When the couples show up and offer proof that they have been married and also show that they are adults, … the first obstacle comes from the Registering Officer himself who insists that the parents of the spouses shall also appear as witnesses. If the couple is running away from their parents when the latter are the principal aggressors, the insistence of the Registering Officers to secure the presence is really an invitation to thoughtless self-destruction. This court has on several occasions directed the Registering Officers to register marriages without having to compel the couples to secure the presence of parents. … the Registering Officers see themselves in happy company with the khap panchayats, driven by same sinister motive of applying their own proclivities against the inter-caste matrimonial bondages.
VII. Court’s approaches have not stemmed the rot
7. There is no unified attempt to evolve a strategy to put a stop to these serious maladies. … [None of our] judicial approaches have helped the cause of the run away couples or their vulnerability for attack and bodily annihilation through honour killings.
VIII. Inter-caste marriage- a step towards annihilation of caste prejudices. Publication of Caste preferences in matrimonial ads-despicable practice
8. An orderly transformation of the society could come only through the instrument of law, for the law is a potent tool of social engineering and fashions and shapes public opinions. If severe punishment to honour killings has not stopped them, if judicial approaches have not reduced their incidence and police would only stand as mute spectators, if not active collaborators, we will come to a situation of accepting these honour killings as unstoppable, that are at once, shameful and abhorrent. The society ought to understand that all the economic progress and developmental goals of what our policy makers endeavour to secure will be trashed, if we cannot respect an adult’s autonomy to choose his or her partner to be together, with or without marriage.
IX. Directives to police & State
10. There shall be a separate cell in every police district for receiving complaints from couples expressing fear of physical annihilation from parents, relatives and khaps. The police shall make no attempt to compel adult couples to return to their parents if any one among the couples apprehends physical harm. The police must keep an army of “friends of people” from amongst progressive minded people in every village or group of villages, where honour killings have been rampant, to provide emotional support and counseling. They shall be sounded by the police, when complaints are received, to play a tempering role to diffuse tension in the village. Every case suspected to be an instance of honour killing shall be considered for entrustment to a high power officer for investigation, not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police and under the direct control and supervision of the Senior Superintendent of Police. The Secretary, Home Department, Haryana, shall convene forthwith a meeting with all high ranking police officers of the State and evolve an acceptable protocol for the persons who shall be competent to investigate and prosecute cases of honour killings. The proposed action shall provide a manner of tracking responsibility to a police officer whose laxity has contributed to the honour killing. If age old customs deny to the adults of the freedom of choice as marriage partners, they must be treated as obnoxious and will have no place in the constitutional ethos, allowing for individual freedoms to flourish. If khaps or the parents oppose, they shall be made to bow down to individual preferences that must be taken as mature actions of informed adults.
X. March of law-scope for course correction
11. The march of law operates to recognize the existing practices of what are socially accepted as customary and hence themselves sources or law. … We have made deliberate departures whenever we found that the customs came in the way of social advancement. … The support to inter-caste marriages, if it is not immediately accepted in the society, ought to come at least in the way of law enforcement agencies ought to seize the opportunity every time when the situation presents itself. The police must protect immediately couples who are on the run … Their first brush with law for any run away couples is only through the police and here, the police must bear compassionate countenance, ever willing to support their cause and protect them by all means. If the police fails, the result is what this case presents before this court.
XI. SIT constituted; Police to report progress and of steps taken
12. To secure a greater sense of purpose and direction to the whole investigation, I direct the Director General of Police to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) with the Senior Superintendent of Police who has a sound record of securing convictions and who has a penchant of thorough investigation, with 2 police personnel to assist him. The said SIT shall examine the petitioner and gather the details of information, which he furnishes as regards the involvement of the persons about whom he may have information and the basis for such information. … The State shall also submit its response for the course of action taken, suggestive of course correction and systems reforms to stem the rot of honour killings. If there are already existing instructions either of the Home Department or the police, the same may be submitted to the court through State counsel to fine tune them, if necessary and if already good, evolve ways to implement them.