• The Law Gazette

Are killings in the name of honour justified?

As the world is havocked by the corona crisis, India is going through barbaric killings, in the name of honor, of those innocent couples who by defying rituals, customs of society marry Inter-caste, Inter-religion, and even in the same religion but different gotra. The Supreme Court in the case of Bhagwan Das v. State (NCT) of Delhi[1] puts honor killing in the rarest of rare category and declared honor killing as a barbaric, brutal, and feudal practice whose apt punishment would be a death sentence. Furthermore, Court again in Shakti Vahini v. Union of India[2] held that khap panchayat is not endowed with the authority to order Honor Killings; their orders must be stopped entirely. The honor killings could be witnessed all over India and data published by NCRB depicts love affairs as the 3rd biggest cause of murder from 2001-2017.[3] The data also reveals that Andhra Pradesh including Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Punjab are the states where such killings are rampant.

In addition to these states, northern Indian is also notorious for such killings. By paying heed to such killings this article primarily spotlights troubles face on marrying outside caste or religion, how an honor killing violates constitutional provisions, National legislations, and International laws. Furthermore, article highlights Issues regarding the registration of honor killing cases, prior efforts made in enacting special law and in the end the author provides various suggestions supporting the need of an Anti-Honor Killings law in India.


The Supreme Court in the famous Hadiya case held that ‘The choice of an individual is an inextricable part of the dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is an erosion of choice. Such right or choice is not expected to succumb to the concept of class honour or Group thinking’. Besides many judgments declaring marriage beyond caste and religion as legal, couples are subject is plenty of social issues.

  1. Couples marrying outside his/her caste and religion are frequently subject to constant death threats by family or community members.

  2. Couples are boycotted by the community and in many cases the state also fails to provide proper legal protection.

  3. Couples are disowned by both family and community.

  4. Society repeatedly makes taunts which ultimately lead to a stressful life.


The constitution of India i.e., law of the land guarantees various protections concerning the Right to choose. The Provisions dealing are Article 14[4] (Equality before the law and Equal Protection of the law), Article 15[5] (Prohibition of discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth), Article 17[6](Abolition of untouchability), Article 21[7] (Right to life and liberty). As the Bride and Groom have taken decision contrary to norms of the society and choose, with their own choice, to whom he/she likes to live their whole life and, in most cases, both the partners belong to different caste and religion, they pay the cost of their defiance by giving their life. Such death infringes their equal protection right and is also discriminatory to their rights related to caste and religion. The Right to choose is suppressed by rituals, norms, traditions, beliefs, and customs & thus, violates the noble guarantee of Article 21[8]. The Supreme Court in Lata Singh v. State Of U.P. & Another[9]firmly supported the right to choice of women and held that there is nothing 'honor' in honor killing cases and marrying inter-caste is in the National Interest. In another landmark judgment ofShafin Jahan v. Ashokan K.M.,[10]the Supreme Court held that the Right to marry a person of own choice is an integral part of Article 21(Right to life and liberty).

Despite the above-mentioned constitutional rights violations, the Honour Killings also infringe the noble provisions of the following acts:

1. The Indian Majority Act, 1875[11]

According to Section 3[12], a person domiciled in India becomes a major on completing his 18 years and thus, becomes legally entitled to marry with his/her own choice. The separation of couples by khap panchayat violates this section and also the judgment of Surjit Kumar and Ors v. State of U. P[13]in which the court ruled that a major person showing a willingness to marry inter-caste and inter-religion is not prohibited by any law and honor killings on this ground will be unlawful and triggers severe measures.

2. Special Marriage Act, 1954

The main objective of this act is to permit marriage between two adults irrespective of their caste, faith and religion. The customary practice of halting the marriage and killings in the name of honor is a clear violation of this act.

3. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

This act was enacted to prevent atrocities against SC/ST. As in cases of honor killings, it was found that in most of the cases either bride or groom belongs to SC/ST community and after marriage they are subject to death, which is a clear infringement of this act.

4. The Protection of Human Rights Act,1993

The act is legislated to protect various human rights abuses. Under this act National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commission were established and if despite the functioning of this institutions, honor killing takes place, then it is a slap on the face of this act and such incidents also depicts the failure of proper functioning of these institutions.

5. International Conventions and Norms

Despite above mentioned legal encroachments honor killings also rapture international laws. Before actual death, couples face abusive behaviours, torture, and mutilations from Family and community. All these sinister acts are abusive to Article 2, 3, and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as following articles guarantee freedom from discrimination[14], Right to life[15], and freedom from torture[16]. Article 2(1)[17] of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right, 1966 states Every human being has an inherent Right to life. Murdering of the couples by family members violates this provision as well. Furthermore, Article 12(1)[18] of the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Right, 1966 guarantees enjoyment of standard physical and mental health but the physical, mental, and sexual violence done by khap panchayat negates the mandate of this right as well.


There is no any express statute which made honor killing a crime. So, the convictions are done mainly in the following penal provisions:

1. Section 299-304(IPC) - Murder and Culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

2. Section 307(IPC)- Attempt to murder

3. Section 308(IPC)- Attempt to commit culpable homicide

4. Section 120-A- Criminal Conspiracy

5. Section 34 and 35 (IPC)- Acts have done by several persons in furtherance of common intention.


By and large, the raison d'être of honor killings are Inter-caste marriage, Intra-religion marriage, love affairs, defying arrange marriage, seeking a divorce, extramarital affairs, and adultery, etc. After the commission of such crime the cases are registered under myriad law[19] i.e. murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, suicides, assault, grievous hurt, criminal intimidation, etc. but not under honor killings as India lacks legislation that defines it as a full flagged crime and this is the main reason why such barbaric cases go unreported by National Crime Record Bureau. In addition to this, another significant cause of un-reporting is the denial of registration of FIR in such killings by police as to some extent they also seem such killings as deemed fit justice.[20]


India is a country of a vast culture where social evils like sati, widow remarriage was in existence from a very early time. The Social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Ray, Ishwarchand Vidyasagar raised concerns. These evils, in the end, are discouraged by various legislations. In the contemporary time, it is need of the hour that such types of legislation should be enacted. For the first time in 2009, after numerous judgments and public outrages on honor killings the issue was raised in Rajya Sabha by a left MP and he also demanded special law but regrettably the speaker of the house, by stating it as a simple demand, retreated that the solution to such killings is not the law. In 2010 All India Democratic Women's Association, a legal cell proposed a comprehensive Bill entitled: The Prevention of Crimes in the name of Honor and Tradition Bill, 2010.[21]This bill defines honor killing and contains provisions regarding the right of young couples and particularly women to control her life. Furthermore, the Bill also contains rights regarding liberty, freedom of expression, choice, and bodily integrity.

The National Commission of Women had extended their support, but Government shows no effort towards it, even government did not discuss it. The law commission published its 242nd report in 2012, In accordance with this report the parliament drafted a bill entitled “Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2017”[22]. The bill focuses on the unlawful activities of Khap Panchayat. Modi government after assuming power seek state assent on this bill and till date 22 states and Union Territories[23] have supported this bill but unfortunately, the bill is yet not introduced in parliament.


Honour killing is far cry from the offense of murder.

a. Murder is caused because of personal vendetta, for monetary benefit but honor killings take place to protect the honor of the family.

b. The accused of murder may be any stranger but, in an honor killing, it is mostly the kith and kin that kill the couples as they are under huge pressure from the community.

These differences demand a new law to wipe out killings in the name of honor. India is flooded with diversity and to cherish it, Inter-caste and Inter-religion marriage should be encouraged otherwise it would be total frustration of diversity if Muslim marriage Muslim, Hindu marriage with Hindu, Christian marriage Christian, Sikhs marriage Sikhs.


A bench comprises of Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra once said, all people committing or planning to commit honor killing bear in mind that gallows awaited them. This statement depicts how brutal the crime is and such crimes would come to an end if politicians, by not thinking of vote bank politics, put some effort to enact an Anti-Honor killing law.

ENDNOTES [1]Bhagwan das vs. State (NCT) of Delhi, (2011) 6 SCC 396. [2] Shakti Valini v Union of India, (2018) SCC Online SC,275. [3] Atul Thakur and Himanshi Dhawan, Love 3rd biggest motive in India, The times of India, (Nov 18, 2019, 07:10 AM) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/love-3rd-biggest-murder-motive-in-india/articleshow/72104915.cms [4] INDIA CONST.art. 14. [5] INDIA CONST art. 15. [6] INDIA CONST art 17. [7] INDIA CONST art. 21. [8] Ibid [9]Lata Singh vs State Of U.P. & Another, (2006) 5 SCC 475 [10]Shafin Jahan v Ashokan K.M., (2018) 4 SCALE 404. [11] Indian Majority Act, 1875,No 9, Acts of the Parliament,1875(India). [12] Indian Majority Act, 1875,$ 3,No 9, Acts of the Parliament,1875(India). [13]Surjit Kumar and Ors v. state of U.P, (2011) 6 ADJ 864. [14] Universal Declaration of Human Right,10th December 1948. [15] Ibid. [16] Ibid [17] The International Covenant on Civil and Political Right,16th December 1966. [18] The International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Right, 16th December 1966. [19]Honour Killing, The Times of India,(Jun 11, 2021, 06 :17AM) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/honour-killings [20]Shakti Valini v Union of India, (2018) SCC Online SC,275. [21] National Commission of Women, The Prevention of Crimes in the name of Honor and Tradition Bill, 2010, (August 2010, 07:10 AM) http://ncwapps.nic.in/PDFFiles/Bill_against_honour_killing_crimes.pdf [22] Rajya Sabha,Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2017, (July 21st, 2017, 11:20 AM), [23] The Economics Times, (Jan. 12, 2021, 10:25 AM)https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/22-states-uts-support-bill-to-prevent-honour-killings/articleshow/45475342.cms?from=mdr


This blog has been authored by Mudassir Hasan, who is a 4th Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.