Honor Killing: A Special law needed



Javed Rafi ( javed.rafi7@gmail.com )

5th year, BA.LLB.(Hons.), Jamia Millia Islamia


“Dividing the people on the basis of caste or community then killing them in order to serve the honor of your caste and community.”

I have always pondered on the question that what makes them choose homicide when they face the consequences of a remark on their caste or community. Is it really of importance for them to save the dignity of their family and kill someone when there is nothing to damage their family dignity in the first place? It is just their mindset which turns them to murder to restore their honor in the eyes of their community. This mindset has been existing since the time of their forefathers where there was no compromise or any tolerance when it came to their caste or community.

Meaning of honor killing:

An honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor or shame upon the family or community.

These crimes prevalent in some parts of rural India are often sparked by couples marrying without their parents’ consent or found in relationship against the family’s will. On certain occasions, the main perpetrator of these crimes and killings are the ‘caste’ or ‘khap’ or community panchayats. These panchayats or associations, through various kinds of coercive and punitive actions, want to create terror and stop marriages and associations on the basis of choice from taking place.

Deepak Mehta, a Delhi-based sociologist, said by marrying a man without her parents’ consent “she is seen as polluting not just herself but also her domestic group,”

The onus of upholding a family’s morality mostly falls on women, who are also the most common victims of honor killings.

Remedy available:

Writ of habeas corpus issues not only for release from detention by the State but also from private detention. Before the court, to regain the custody of wife, the husband needs to prove the validity of his marriage.


A writ of habeas corpus issues not only for release from detention by the State but also for release from private detention.

Also Read:  Applicability of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

At common law, a writ of habeas corpus is available to the husband for regaining the custody of his wife if she is wrongfully detained by anyone without her consent. Hence the order of the High Court was not without jurisdiction. However, issuing of a writ of habeas corpus at the instance of a husband is very rare in English law.

 In India, such a writ is probably never used by a husband to regain his wife and the alternative remedy under s. 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is always used. There is also the remedy of a civil suit for restitution of conjugal rights. In both these cases, all the issues of fact can be tried and the writ of habeas corpus is probably not demanded in similar cases if issues of fact have first to be established. This is because the writ of habeas corpus is festinum  remedium and the power can only be exercised in a a clear case.

Before a court accedes to his request, it must satisfy itself at least primafacie that the person claiming the writ is in fact the husband and whether a valid marriage between him and the woman could at all have taken place

A Special law needed

Till now after the numerous cases of honor killing there are no laws to deal with the barbaric actions of the Khap or community panchayats or other caste or religious associations. Some offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are invoked to sometimes book offenders in these cases but these offences do not cover the entire gamut of illegal actions perpetrated in the name of Honor or prescribe adequate punishment for these barbaric acts.

Even C.J.I. P. Sathasivam favoured a special law to combat honor killings and said “a special legislation will certainly be a welcome effort as it will help in generating additional protection to the victims. Though the prevailing law punishes the act of homicide, it does not directly punish the members gathering for such purpose.”

The Government seems to be combating this issue as National Commission for Women (NCW) proposed a Bill against honor killing.

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