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History of Inter Caste Marriage in India The Way Forward: A Socio Legal

Study

4.3 Family Law

Submitted by

Subham Das

UID: SM0117051

B.A. L.L.B. 2nd Year, 4t Semester

Faculty-in-charge

Mr. Thangzakhup Tombing

National Law University, Assam


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Introduction…………………………………………………………………1-4
1.1 Literature Review………………………………………………………3
1.2 Scope and Objectives.………………………………………………….4
1.3 Research Questions…………………………………………………….4
1.4 Research Methodology…………………………………………………4
2. Caste System in India………………………………………………………5-6
3. Marriage in India……………………………………………………….......7-11
3.1 Forms of Marriage……………………………………………………..7-10
3.1.1 Brahma Marriage…………………………………..…………...7
3.1.2 Daiva Marriage……………………………………..…………..7
3.1.3 Arsha Marriage……………………………………….………...8
3.1.4 Prajapatya Marriage…………………………………….……...8
3.1.5 Asura Marriage……………………………………………..….8
3.1.6 Gandharva Marriage…………………………………………...9
3.1.7 Rakshasa Marriage…………………………………………….9
3.1.8 Paisacha Marriage……………………………………………..9
3.2 Inter Caste-Marriage in India…………………………………………10-11
4. Major Cases Related to inter-Caste Marriage…………….………………11-15
5. The Way Forward…………………………………………….…………..15-18
5.1. Preventive Steps………………...……………………………………15-16
5.2. Remedial Steps..…………………………………….……………….16-17
5.3. Punitive Steps..……………………………………..………………..17-18
6. Conclusion……………………………………………..…………………18
7. Bibliography…………………………………………..………………….19

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1. Introduction

Marriage in India is primarily based on social stratification of a caste system. even today the
caste system is largely prevalent in rural India, which condemns inter-caste marriage, and the
couple who tries to defy this norm faces dire consequences. In India marrying across the caste
kindles strong community resentment leading to the extent of honour killing, yet few couples
dare to defy this stringent social norm. Contrary to general notion, education is not able to
promote inter-caste marriage.

Marriage is a sacred institution which binds both the woman and man in a lifelong relation. It
gives this relation a meaning. When a marriage takes place, two souls are united and this opens
new vistas in their lives. But, human beings are so selfish that have virtually spoilt the
sacredness of these relations. Now a days Marriages in India, has always been the biggest
concept for the Indian families. Lot of importance is given to the last name carried by the boy
or the girl. In fact, the respect and dignity of a person is attached to his last name, a sin who
were his family ancestors and to which family name he belongs. The caste, creed and culture
are the three most important elements, which are kept on the high priority in marriage. The
bride and the groom surely have to match each other’s caste,religions, community, language,
culture andregion. Without matching each other’s religious and richness status, the bride and
the groom are strictly not allowed to tie marriage knots with each other.
Inter-caste marriage is legal in India. Such marriages are sanctioned by the Special Marriage
Act 1954 and are also permitted under The Hindu Marriage Act 1955. Pieces of legislation have
also been introduced to encourage inter-caste marriages, including legislation to provide
financial assistance to couples who undertake inter-caste unions. The latest proposal by the
central Government in 2006 would see all such couples paid 50 000 rupees, or A$1100, across
all the states. Despite the absence of legal restrictions and such incentives, inter-caste marriage
is rare due to the general social acceptance of caste and its influence on marriage, even within
educated, urban upper-class families. 1

1
Dr. Rakesh Rai, Inter-Caste Marriages and Reservation Policy in India: A Socio Legal Study, International
Research Journal of Social Science and Humanities

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1.1 Literature Review

• Professor Kusum, Family Law Lectures Family Law 1, 3rd Edition (2011), Lexis
Nexis
This book has helped the researcher to get invaluable knowledge on family law in India
especially the Hindu marriage aspect. The book has ample amount of important cases relating
to marriages in India which has been of great help in constructing the chapterization of the
project. It helps in understanding the diversity and forms of marriage across Hindu, Muslim
and Christian Laws.

• Rajni Devi, Marriage Among Hindus with Special Reference to Dowry, ISOR Journal
of Humanities and Social Sciences
This article has helped the researcher in developing a knowledge related to the meaning of
marriage and also the importance and the role marriage plays in the Indian society and the
changes the institution of marriage is going through with the passage of time in the country.
The article explains wonderfully the eight types or forms of traditional Hindu marriage and
their differences and the reason for their classification. It has also made the researcher capable
of identifying which form of Hindu marriage has been undergone by the two parties while tying
the knot.

• Radha Kamal Mukherjee, Caste and Social Change in India, The American Journal of
Sociology

This article has helped the researcher in developing a knowledge related to the age-old caste
system of India. The origin and changing meanings of caste in the Indian society. The article
explains in a very precise and concise way the features and characteristics of the Indian Caste
System.

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1.2 Scope and Objectives

Scope

The Scope of this research is to understand the concept of voidable agreements under Indian
Contract Act 1872 and also to analyse the conditions under which a contract becomes voidable
and its exceptions. It also tries to explore the difference between voidable and void
agreements.

1.2. Objectives: -

• To understand the concept of Caste system in India.


• To analyze the plight of Inter-Caste Marriage in India.
• To explore the steps taken to encourage Inter-Caste Marriage in India.

1.3 Research Questions


• What is the meaning of Caste system in India?
• What is the meaning of Inter-Caste Marriage in India?
• What are the steps taken to encourage Inter-Caste Marriages in India?

1.4 Research Methodology

In this research work, the Doctrinal Method of Explanatory Research Design has been
employed for conducing the research. Only secondary sources such as books, articles and
journals have been used for the collection of information for the research work.

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2. Caste System in India

The word, “caste‟ is of Spanish and Portuguese origin. The term, „caste‟ originated from the
Spanish word “casta‟, meaning „lineage‟ or „race‟ or „a group having hereditary quality‟. It
is derived from the Latin word “Castus‟, which means pure. The Spaniards were the first to
use it, but its Indian application is from the Portuguese, who had so applied it in the middle of
the fifteenth century. 2
Caste can be defined as hereditary endogamous group, having a common name, common
traditional occupation, common culture, relatively rigid in matters of mobility, distinctiveness
of status and forming a single homogeneous community. However, in the changing situation
caste has adapted too many new features like having formal organizations, becoming less rigid
and having a link with politics. Thus, we may list from the above the following features of
caste system.
1. Hereditary in nature: It implies that caste system is based on heredity. It is based on ascribed
values rather than achieved qualities.
2. Segmental division of society: It means Indian social stratification is largely based on caste.
There are various castes having a well-developed life style of their own. The membership of a
caste is determined by birth. Thus caste is hereditary in nature.
3. Hierarchy: It indicates various castes according to their purity and impurity of occupations
are ranked from higher to lower positions. It is like a ladder where pure caste is ranked on the
top and impure is ranked at the bottom. For example the occupation of Brahmin is that of
performing rituals and teaching. It is considered to be the purest occupation; hence they are
placed at the top of the hierarchy. On the other hand sweeper, whose occupation is cleaning
and scavenging, is placed at the bottom the bottom of the hierarchy because of impure
occupation.
4. Restrictions on food, drink and smoking: Usually different castes do not exchange food and
drink, and do not share smoking of hukka among them. For instance, Brahmins do not take
food from any other caste. It is a complicated process. For example in Uttar Pradesh, among
Kanyakubj Brahmins, there are many sub-divisions. Each sub-division does not take food from
other sub- division. There are two types of food: “pucca” (food prepared in ghee like puri,
kachodi and pulao) and kuchcha (food prepared in water like rice, pulses and vegetable curries).

2
Radha Kamal Mukherjee, Caste and Social Change in India, The American Journal of Sociology

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Some castes exchange only pucca food among themselves. Invariably, the high caste does not
take anything from the low caste. The same principle is applied to smoking.
5. Endogamy: It indicates members of the caste have to marry within their own caste only.
Inter-castes marriages are prohibited. However, among educated people, particularly in the
urban areas, inter-castes marriages are gradually increasing.
6. Purity and pollution: It is one of the important features of the caste system. Purity and
pollution are judged in terms of deeds, occupation, language, dress patterns, as well as food
habits. For example liquor consumption, consuming nonvegetarian food, eating left-over food
of the high castes, working in occupations like leather craft, lifting dead animals, sweeping and
carrying garbage etc. are supposed to be impure. However, in recent times some high caste
people are today doing all the above jobs, like working in a shoe-shop, shoe-factory, cutting
hair in a beauty parlour etc.3
7. Occupational association: Each caste has a specific occupation and cannot change the
occupation. For instance, Brahmins do priesthood and teaching, Kayasthas maintain revenue
records and writing. Baniyas are engaged in business and Chamars are engaged in leatherwork,
etc. With new job opportunities available due to industrialization and urbanization some people
have shifted from their traditional occupation. However, in rural areas traditional occupations
are still followed. Such cases are also found in urban areas like a barber has a haircutting saloon
where he cuts hair in the morning and evening simultaneously works as peon in some office.
8. Social and religious disabilities and privileges of a few sections: The lower caste are debarred
from doing many things like they are not permitted to enter the temple, do not use literally
language and cannot use gold ornaments or umbrella etc. However, thing have changed
considerably, these restrictions are hardly found today. 9. Distinction in custom, dress and
speech: Each caste has distinct style of life, i.e. having its customs, dress patterns and speech.
The high caste uses pure language (sometimes use literally words), whereas, the low caste use
colloquial language. Conflict resolving mechanisms: The castes having their own conflict
resolving mechanisms such as Caste Panchayats at the village and inter-village levels.

3
Radha Kamal Mukherjee, Caste and Social Change in India, The American Journal of Sociology

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3. Marriage in India Concept of Inter-Caste Marriage in India

3.1. Forms of Marriage

The eight forms of marriage described here originated in the Vedas and are a major topic of
discussion in Hindu law books. The forms can also be traced to sacred texts, such as the
Grhyasutras (various recensions of the Vedas) and the Manusmriti. The latter, in particular, is
a critical text that not only constructed a patriarchal framework of religious laws, it also
ordained the social practices and activities that promote and continue to sustain patriarchy.

3.1.1. Brahma Marriage.

Brahma marriage is the purest form of marriage. In this form of marriage the father offers his
daughter to a man of character and learning. The daughter who is decked with ornaments and
richly dressed is given as a kind of gift (danam) to a man of good character and high learning.
The Smritis regard this as the most honourable type of marriage since it is free from physical
force, compulsion or imposition of conditions and lure of money. This form can be traced back
to the Vedic times.

3.1.2. Daiva Marriage

The Daiva form of marriage is based on the principle of sacrifice. Fathers seek young Brahmin
suitors for their daughters. The Brahmin, a priest, who is usually approached while he is
conducting a sacrificial prayer, is offered the daughter as a wife and as an item of sacrifice. In
other words, offering a daughter is constituted as the ultimate sacrifice a parent can make to
placate the gods or to fulfil his karmic duty. In Hinduism the benevolence shown to a Brahmin
is looked upon as a supreme act of devotion and a daughter is the means to do so. The
construction of the father as benevolent giver is simultaneously a dismissal of the daughter to
service male karmic and dharmic ends.

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3.1.3. Arsha Marriage

In this form of marriage, the father gives his daughter in marriage to the bridegroom after
receiving a cow and a bull or two pairs of these from the bridegroom in accordance with the
requirement of dharma. But this form of marriage should not be confused with the form of the
bride-price or with that of the dowry. The gift of cow and bull is to be made as a token of
gratitude to the man who offers his daughter to the groom to enable him to fulfil his
grihasthashrama obligations. In course of time, with the decline of rituals, this form of marriage
became out of date.4

3.1.4. Prajapatya Marriage

In this form of marriage, the father makes a gift of the daughter by addressing the couple with
the mantram “may both of you perform together your dharma”. The girl is given as a gift with
a clear understanding that the couple will perform their civic and religious duties together. This
form of marriage is inferior to the first three because the bride is not a free gift but a condition
is laid on both the bride and the bridegroom.

In the above four forms of marriage mentioned above, the important point to be noted is that it
is the father (or a person in his place) who makes a gift (dana) of the bride to the bridegroom.

3.1.5. Asura Marriage

Unsuitable or undesired suitors are accommodated in the Asura form of marriage. In this form,
a man purchases a wife by paying an enormous sum of money to her family, kinsmen and to
the bride. The father gives his daughter away in exchange for the acquisition of wealth. 5

4
Rajni Devi, Marriage Among Hindus with Special Reference to Dowry, ISOR Journal of Humanities and Social
Sciences
5
Rajni Devi, Marriage Among Hindus with Special Reference to Dowry, ISOR Journal of Humanities and Social
Sciences

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3.1.6. Gandharva Marriage

The Manusmriti, describes the Gandharva marriage as the voluntary union of a maiden and her
lover. Manusmriti says that such a union springs from desire and has sexual intercourse for its
purpose, ignoring the fact that in all marriages there is an expectation to consummate the
relationship. Sexual activity in the absence of mutual desire is the norm and the explicitness of
sexual desire signified by the mutual attraction of a couple is an uncomfortable tension within
the confines of a religion that stresses purity, virginity and eventual renunciation of worldly
and emotional ties. There is no consensual theory to explain why Gandharva marriages
declined over time,

3.1.7. Rakshasa Marriage

The Rakshasa form condones bride abduction following an attack on the bride’s kinsmen who
have been slain or beaten and wounded. The women are doubly victimized through the loss of
family and captured as prizes of violent conquests. The acquisition of brides in this
way means that there is no recourse to a family that has been slain, and fear of violence against
surviving relatives prevents any acts of agency.

3.1.8. Paisacha Marriage

This type of marriage is one in which the man seduces by force a girl who is sleeping or
intoxicated or disordered in intellect. Dharma shastra writers like Gauthama and Vishnu defines
it as “cohabiting with a girl who is unconscious, sleepy or intoxicated”. This form of marriage,
however, has disappeared altogether in India. 6
Of these eight forms of marriages, Brahma marriage is considered to be the best form of
marriage where a girl is given to a boy of merit in the same caste or in a caste of equal status.
Both bride and bridegroom in this marriage are supposed to be mutually agreeable for the
marriage. In the present day Hindu society also the Brahma marriage is considered the most
preferable one in which the father gifts his daughter to a suitable bridegroom through the ritual
of kanyadana for procurement.

6
Rajni Devi, Marriage Among Hindus with Special Reference to Dowry, ISOR Journal of Humanities and Social
Sciences

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Out of the above mentioned eight forms of marriages Anulim and Pratilom are Inter-Caste
marriages

3.2. Inter Caste Marriage in India

Inter-caste marriage is legal in India. Such marriages are sanctioned by the Special Marriage
Act 1954 and are also permitted under The Hindu Marriage Act 1955. Pieces of legislation have
also been introduced to encourage inter-caste marriages, including legislation to provide
financial assistance to couples who undertake inter-caste unions. The latest proposal by the
central Government in 2006 would see all such couples paid 50 000 rupees, across all the states.
Despite the absence of legal restrictions and such incentives, inter-caste marriage is rare due to
the general social acceptance of caste and its influence on marriage, even within educated,
urban upper-class families.7
It appears that ostracism, discrimination and harm against inter-caste couples are perpetrated
by family members, relatives, the local community, and local police. Reactions to inter-caste
marriages vary depending on the religion, social status, and class of the couple, and on where
the couple live. In extreme cases, some communities in India consider such marriages a crime
and disapproval come in the form of punitive violence. Following the recent case of Lata Singh
vs. State of Uttar Pradesh8 involving the “honour killing” of an inter-caste couple, a statement
by the Supreme Court of India indicates that while the legal system does seek to protect such
couples, the protection offered by police requires reinforcement.

While the higher levels of the court system do seek to protect inter-caste couples, some parts
of the local judicial system in India do not. In its most recent report on India, Human Rights
Watch points to increasing violence against inter-caste marriage couples committed by local
village officials: Increasingly, caste panchayats, or caste-based village councils, extrajudicially
punish inter-caste marriages with public lynching of couples or their relatives, murder of the
bride or the groom, rape, public beatings, and other sanctions. This is particularly common if
either bride or bridegroom is a Dalit.

7
Dr. Rakesh Rai, Inter-Caste Marriages and Reservation Policy in India: A Socio Legal Study, International
Research Journal of Social Science and Humanities
8
Lata Singh vs. State of U.P. & Another, (2006) 5 SCC 475

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Inter-caste marriages are more common in urban than in rural areas. According to a New Delhi
based scholar quoted in a recent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada research, 80% of
inter-caste marriages occurred in towns and 20% from villages in 2004. 9

Where the law is nominally enforced, “legal” means are employed to reclaim these women.
They get hauled up before the courts on the weight of complaints made by their parents. Their
husbands are accused of abduction and their conjugal love termed “rape”. Where proof of age
is not available, the charge is “abduction and rape of a minor”. The legal age of consent is a
curious weapon in the hands of those who would otherwise have no qualms about child
marriage. In cases where there is no ambiguity that the woman is a legal adult, the complaint
declares her to be of “unsound mind”.
The police, normally so reluctant to file a first information report (FIR), is happy to register
these complaints. They ask for no evidence of the age or even proof of the “abducted” woman’s
alleged mental incapacity.

Violent reactions against inter-caste marriage appear to be more severe in rural villages than in
urban centres. Instances of violence against inter-caste married couples who live in cities do
exist. One of the notable examples is that of Honour killings in Ludhiana which included the
killing of a seven-month pregnant wife and her husband, in the industrial city of Ludhiana,
Punjab, allegedly by the wife’s father and relatives. This case involved a higher status woman
marrying a lower caste male.

4. Major Cases Related to Inter-Caste Marriage

I. Lata Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh

In Lata Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh 10, the Supreme Court viewed the right of marriage as a
component of right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The facts that gave rise to the
litigation were violent reactions following an inter-caste marriage between two adults. There
were complaints, arrests, threats and criminal cases against the girl’s husband and his family
members. The girl (wife) filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India with

9
Dr. Rakesh Rai, Inter-Caste Marriages and Reservation Policy in India: A Socio Legal Study, International
Research Journal of Social Science and Humanities
10
Lata Singh vs. State of U.P. & Another, (2006) 5 SCC 475

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a prayer for issuing a writ of certiorari and/or mandamus for quashing the trials in the trial
courts, against her husband and his relatives. The petition was allowed and the
police/administration was directed to protect them from harassment, threats or acts of violence,
and take stern action against who do so, by instituting criminal proceedings against them. The
court observed.
This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry
whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or
inter-religious marriage the maximum the can do is that they can cut off social relations with
the son or daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and
cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage.
Both the partners in the case were adults and so free to marry of their choice. The court further
observed that there is no bar to an inter-caste marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
or any other law. Inter-caste marriages are in fact in the national interest as they will result in
destroying the caste system. 11

II. Smt. Chandrapati vs State Of Haryana And Others

In Manoj- Babli Honour Killing Case12 was the honour killing of Indian newlyweds Manoj
Banwala and Babli in June 2007 and the subsequent court case which historically convicted
defendants for an honour killing. The accused in the murder included relatives of Babli
(grandfather Gangaraj, who is said to have been a Khap leader, [1] brother, maternal and paternal
uncles and two cousins). Relatives of Manoj, especially his mother, defended the
relationship.[2] The killing was ordered by a khap panchayat, a religious caste -based council
among Jats, in their Karora village in Haryana. The khap passed a decree prohibiting marriage
against societal norms. Such caste-based councils are common in the inner regions of several
Indian states, including Haryana, Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan, and
have been operating with government approval for years. [4] In any event, the state government
expressed no concern about the ruling of the khap panchayat.

The Khap panchayat's ruling was based on the assumption that Manoj and Babli belonged to
the Banwala gotra, a Jat community, and were therefore considered to be siblings despite not
being directly related and any union between them would be invalid and incestuous.

11
Proffessor Kusum, Family Law Lectures Family Law 1, 3rd Edition (2011), Lexis Nexis
12
Smt. Chandrapati vs. State of Haryana And Others (2007)

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Nevertheless, the couple went ahead with their marriage, following which they were abducted
and killed by Babli's relatives.

In March 2010, a Kamal district court sentenced the five perpetrators to be executed, the first
time an Indian court had done so in an honour killing case. The khap head who ordered but did
not take part in the killings received a life sentence, and the driver involved in the abduction a
seven-year prison term. According to Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the UPA-led central
government was to propose an amendment to the Indian Penal Code in response to the deaths
of Manoj and Babli, making honour killings a "distinct offense".

III. Shakti Vahini vs Union Of India

In Shakti Vahini v. Union of India case13 Right to marry person of one’s choice — Honour
killing and other forms of honour crimes inflicted on young couples/families by Khap
Panchayat: Consent of family or community or clan, not necessary when two adults agree to
enter into a wedlock. Rule of Law that only formal institutions under law deal with such
situations. Khap panchayat or any panchayat of any nomenclature cannot create a dent in
exercise of human right, protected by rule of law. Rule of law as a concept is meant to have
order in a society. Elders of family or clan can never be allowed to proclaim a verdict guided
by some notion of passion and eliminate life of young who have exercised their choice to get
married against wishes of their elders or contrary to customary practice of clan. Honour killing
guillotines individual liberty, freedom of choice and one’s own perception of choice. When
two adults consensually choose each other as life partners, it is a manifestation of their choice
which is recognized under Arts. 19 and 21 of the Constitution. Such a right has constitutional
sanction and thus needs protection and cannot succumb to class honour or group thinking which
has no legitimacy. Constitution and the laws of country do not countenance such an act and, in
fact, whole activity is illegal and punishable as offence under the criminal law.

IV. Zubida Akhter v. State of Jammu and Kashmir

In Zubida Akhter v. State of Jammu and Kashmir14 The High Court recently addressed a
petition wherein the petitioner argued that despite her having attained the age of majority and

13
Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, (2018) 7 SCC 192
14
Zubida Akhter v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, (2017) SCC Online J&K 712

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marrying the 2nd petitioner out of her own free will without any undue coercion, the
respondents were harassing her with the help of the Police along with wrongfully framing them
in false cases.
The Court referred to Lata Singh v. State of U.P.15, which held that if a woman has attained
the age of majority, she is free to marry whoever she wants to provided that person has attained
the age of majority as well. It clarified, “There is no bar to an inter-caste marriage under the
Hindu Marriage Act or any other law. The caste system is a curse on the nation and the sooner
it is destroyed the better. In fact, it is dividing the nation at a time when we have to be united
to face the challenges before the nation unitedly. Hence, inter-caste marriages are in fact in the
national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system”. It was further held in this
case, “In our opinion, such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those
who commit them must be severely punished”. Thus, the Court directed the Police to take
appropriate steps to ensure the protection and liberty of the petitioners.

V. Ashok Kumar v. State of Haryana

In Ashok Kumafr vs. State of Haryana case 16 A Single Judge Bench comprising of H.S.
Madaan, J. denied bail to the petitioner who was accused of honour killing of his sister.
The petitioner was alleged to have done away with the life of his sister. The complainant,
Rohtash Kumar, in his written complaint submitted that he had married one Kiran Rani, sister
of the accused; and since it was an inter-caste marriage, her family was not convinced. After
the marriage was solemnised, Kiran went back to her parent’s home to complete studies. The
complainant informed that on 22-1-2017, he received a call from the petitioner, brother of
Kiran who threatened to kidnap him and further told him that he had killed Kiran and cremated
her. Based on the complaint, an FIR was registered; the investigation was done; and the charge
sheet was filed under Sections 201, 302, 328, 506 and 34 IPC. He was facing trial and
approached the Court for grant of bail.

The High Court perused the record and found it a case where judicial discretion ought not to
be exercised in favour of the petitioner. The Court observed, cases of honor killing are
increasing day by day, which is a very unhealthy trend. This tendency needs to be curbed.
Persons indulging in honor killings must be dealt with sternly to send a message around that

15
Lata Singh vs. State of U.P. & Another, (2006) 5 SCC 475
16
Ashok Kumar vs. State of Haryana, (2018) SCC Online P&H 803

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people indulging in such type of crimes shall be held accountable for their wrongful acts. The
High Court noted the apprehension expressed by the respondent that if the petitioner was
released on bail, there was the likelihood of him absconding and tampering with the prosecution
evidence. Observing this, the High Court denied bail to the petitioner and accordingly, the
petition was dismissed.

5. The Way Forward

The Hon’ble Indian judiciary has tried to deal with the deep rooted problems related to inter-
caste marriages in India and in the landmark case of Shakti Vahini v. Union of India17 the Supreme
Court of India has laid down the following guidelines to tackle with this issue.

5.1. Preventive Steps:

• The State Governments should identify Districts, Sub-Divisions and/or Villages where
instances of honour killing or assembly of Khap Panchayats have been reported in the
recent past, e.g., in the last five years.
• If information about any proposed gathering of a Khap Panchayat comes to the
knowledge of any police officer or any officer of the District Administration, he shall
inform his immediate superior officer and also simultaneously intimate the
jurisdictional Deputy Superintendent of Police and Superintendent of Police.
• The Deputy Superintendent of Police shall then immediately interact with the members
of the Khap Panchayat and impress upon them that convening of such
meeting/gathering is not permissible in law and to eschew from going ahead with such
a meeting.
• Despite taking such measures, if the meeting is conducted, the Deputy Superintendent
of Police shall personally remain present during the meeting and impress upon the
assembly that no decision can be taken to cause any harm to the couple or the family
members of the couple, failing which each one participating in the meeting besides the
organisers would be personally liable for criminal prosecution.

17
Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, (2018) 7 SCC 192

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• If the Deputy Superintendent of Police, after interaction with the members of the Khap
Panchayat, has reason to believe that the gathering cannot be prevented and/or is likely
to cause harm to the couple or members of their family, he shall forthwith submit a
proposal to the District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the District/
Competent Authority of the concerned area for issuing orders to take preventive steps
under the Cr.P.C., including by invoking prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr.P.C.
and also by causing arrest of the participants in the assembly under Section 151
Cr.P.C.18

5.2. Remedial Steps:

• Despite the preventive measures taken by the State Police, if it comes to the notice of
the local police that the Khap Panchayat has taken place and it has passed any diktat,
the jurisdictional police official shall cause to immediately lodge an F.I.R. under the
appropriate provisions of the Penal Code including Sections 141, 143, 503 read with
506 of IPC.
• Additionally, immediate steps should be taken to provide security to the couple/family
and, if necessary, to remove them to a safe house within the same district or elsewhere
keeping in mind their safety and threat perception. The State Government may consider
of establishing a safe house at each District Headquarter for that purpose.
• The District Magistrate/Superintendent of Police must deal with the complaint
regarding threat administered to such couple/family with utmost sensitivity. It should
be first ascertained whether the bachelor-bachelorette are capable adults. Thereafter, if
necessary, they may be provided logistical support for solemnising their marriage
and/or for being duly registered under police protection, if they so desire. After the
marriage, if the couple so desire, they can be provided accommodation on payment of
nominal charges in the safe house initially for a period of one month to be extended on
monthly basis but not exceeding one year in aggregate, depending on their threat
assessment on case to case basis.
• The initial inquiry regarding the complaint received from the couple (bachelor-
bachelorette or a young married couple) or upon receiving information from an
independent source that the relationship/marriage of such couple is opposed by their

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family members/local community/Khaps shall be entrusted by the District Magistrate/
Superintendent of Police to an officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of
Police. He shall conduct a preliminary inquiry and ascertain the authenticity, nature
and gravity of threat perception. On being satisfied as to the authenticity of such
threats, he shall immediately submit a report to the Superintendent of Police in not later
than one week.
• The District Superintendent of Police, upon receipt of such report, shall direct the
Deputy Superintendent of Police incharge of the concerned sub-division to cause to
register an F.I.R. against the persons threatening the couple(s) and, if necessary, invoke
Section 151 of Cr.P.C.
• In the course of investigation, the concerned persons shall be booked without any
exception including the members who have participated in the assembly. If the
involvement of the members of Khap Panchayat comes to the fore, they shall also be
charged for the offence of conspiracy or abetment, as the case may be.

5.3. Punitive Steps:

• Any failure by either the police or district officer/officials to comply with the aforesaid
directions shall be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for
which departmental action must be taken under the service rules. The departmental
action shall be initiated and taken to its logical end, preferably not exceeding six
months, by the authority of the first instance.
• The States must take disciplinary action against the concerned officials if it is found
that (i) such official(s) did not prevent the incident, despite having prior knowledge of
it, or (ii) where the incident had already occurred, such official(s) did not promptly
apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits.
• The State Governments shall create Special Cells in every District comprising of the
Superintendent of Police, the District Social Welfare Officer and District Adi-Dravidar
Welfare Officer to receive petitions/complaints of harassment of and threat to couples
of inter-caste marriage.
• These Special Cells shall create a 24-hour helpline to receive and register such
complaints and to provide necessary assistance/advice and protection to the couple.
• The criminal cases pertaining to honour killing or violence to the couple(s) shall be
tried before the designated Court/Fast Track Court earmarked for that purpose. The
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trial must proceed on day to day basis to be concluded preferably within six months
from the date of taking cognizance of the offence. This direction shall apply even to
pending cases. 19

6. Conclusion

Odds of inter-caste marriage taking place in lower class households is much lesser than the
higher caste. Resilient targeted efforts are necessary to promote inter-caste marriage which may
loosen the noose of the caste system in India. Although the Indian constitution has provisions
to encourage and allow people to marry anyone of their choice after one attains the age of
majority bit the Indian society has a long way to go to wholeheartedly accept the simple concept
and not look down on Inter-Caste marriages. Even though it can be observed that with
modernisation and urbanisation the Indian society is opening up to the Inter-Caste marriages
the country still has a long way to go to reach its goal to make the regretful caste system of
Indian Society a thing of the past. The Indian legislature and Judiciary have tried to take steps
to reach this elusive goal and one of its biggest highlights is the guidelines laid down by the
Hon’ble Supreme Court in the landmark case of Shakti Vahini v. Union of India.

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7. Bibliography

BOOKS:
• Proffessor Kusum, Family Law Lectures Family Law 1, 3rd Edition (2011), Lexis
Nexis

JOURNALS:

• Dr. Rakesh Rai, Inter-Caste Marriages and Reservation Policy in India: A Socio
Legal Study, International Research Journal of Social Science and Humanities
• Radha Kamal Mukherjee, Caste and Social Change in India, The American Journal of
Sociology

• Rajni Devi, Marriage Among Hindus with Special Reference to Dowry, ISOR Journal
of Humanities and Social Sciences

CASES:
• Lata Singh vs. State of U.P. & Another, (2006) 5 SCC 475
• Smt. Chandrapati vs. State of Haryana And Others (2007)
• Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, (2018) 7 SCC 192
• Zubida Akhter v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, (2017) SCC Online J&K 712
• Lata Singh vs. State of U.P. & Another, (2006) 5 SCC 475
• Ashok Kumar vs. State of Haryana, (2018) SCC Online P&H 803

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