Honour Killing: A Judicial Approach


This article has been written by Barkha, from JEMTEC School of Law.

Since the civilisation of society, when people moved from caves to homes, they have always defined some kind of norms related to almost everything. They decided certain rules, which are to followed by everyone. Even deciding, whom an individual should love. Being it, concealing their insensible and pointless rules, by calling it rule of nature, as in the case of LGBTQ community. According to them, it is the rule of nature that a man should love a woman only and vice-versa. Similarly, they decided 4 castes on their own, and made a rule that people should marry within the same caste. And if they fail to follow this rule, they will be killed. This primitive thinking of people, is still prevailing in the society. Now it is known as honour killing. Honour killing is basically killing of people in the name of honour, to protect the prestige of the family. It is believed that if any person is getting married to any person of different caste, or did any other work which is in violation of the societal rules, they have outraged the modesty of the family and shall be killed. Honour killing has been a serious issue from a very long time. It is still continued, although in today’s world some people are aware about the issue, and the court is framing laws for the same.

Some reasons which lead to this honour killing may be, marriage out of caste, inter religion marriage, or loving someone of same gender, pregnancy before marriage, inappropriate dressing etc. Honour killing is practiced in almost every part of the world. It was reported by the United Nations, that 5,000 women became victim of honour killing in the year 2000.[1] Although, it exists in almost every part of the world, India has reported the highest number of cases. This act of honour killing is mostly practiced in villages of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi. Punjab reports highest number of cases, due to the presence of ‘Khap Panchayat’ or ‘Caste panchayat’. Places where freedom is not provided to people, to do whatever they want, marry whoever they want. In the earlier times, people were killed on the name of honour killing, and it was not even known to people, they were killed silently, and most of them were reported as suicide or accident. Which makes it difficult to keep a count on such cases of honour killing. There is no codified law, pertaining the cases of honour killing.[2]


There are some provisions which can be applied to case of honour killing.

  • The Indian Penal Code,1860, Section 300, which simply mentions murder, i.e. killing of any person with intention to kill him or causing him any injury which would result in the death of the person.
  • The Indian Majority Act, 1857, section 3 mentions that, every individual attains person majority at the age of 18 years, they are allowed to marry whoever they want after the age of 18 in the case of girls and 21 in the case of boys. This act becomes applicable, when any ‘khapPanchayat’ tries to separate married couple, and result in violation of this provision.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954, this Act was specially enacted for marriages which are not normal, i.e. inter-religion marriages, and marriages with foreigners, which makes such marriages legal.
  • Protection of women from domestic violence Act, 2005, this act was enacted to prevent any kind violence against women, by their family members, and provide safe environment for women.

These are the provisions violated when any case of honour killing occurs. But there is no special enacted and coded law on honour killing, people have been committing it to set an example that, if theydo anything which is against their rules, they will be punished and killed. But judiciary has certainly given some judgement related to honour killing.

There are series of decisions which has been passed by the judiciary, to provide justice to the people who have been killed, in the name of honour killing. On 21st June, 2011, justice R.M. Lodha and J.K. Patnaik, issued a notice, for some states to make appropriate laws on the issue, after a petition filed by an NGO named ‘Shakti Vahini’. In many criminal matters, judiciary has many times punished the offenders for the offence of honour killing like in the case, Uttar Pradesh vs. Krishna Master and Others[3], in which Supreme Court awarded life imprisonment to the murderer of 3 people’s, 6 family members. The court has recognised the cruelty of this offence. In another case, Lata Singh v. State of U.P. and Another[4], it was held by the court that such kind of acts i.e. torturing someone is wholly illegal and the offenders, shall be punished.

In a landmark judgement, Shakti Vahini Vs. UOI[5], Supreme Court of India, held that this violence in the name of honour, it is not only a criminal matter but a matter of violation of fundamental right, given under Article 21 and Article 19(1)(a) of The Constitution of India, which provides right to life and right to speech and expression. This judgement gives emphasis on the recognition of the intensity of this heinous crime, and punishment to be given accordingly.

After the judicial precedent which has been set by the Supreme Court. It would be followed by all inferior court all over the country. People have been harassed and tortured in the name of the customs and rules, by some strangers and in some cases by their own families. Everyone has right to live his/her life with zero intervention of others and freedom. These laws made by the society are insensible and there is no point in following such laws. Killing someone just by claiming that they have outraged the reputation of their family, is a barbaric. Strong laws must be enacted by the legislature for the crime of honour killing.Laws should be codified to make them more substantiate.

[1]Matthew A Goldstein. The Biological Roots of Heat of Passion Crimes and Honour Killing. Politics and Life Science, 2002.(Visited on 31.5.20 at 15:50).

[2]https://medcraveonline.com/SIJ/honour-killing-a-socio-legal-analysis-with-special-reference-to-district-srinagar-of-jampk.html#ref1(Visited on 29.5.20 at 20:24).

[3]CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1180 OF 2004.

[4](2006) 5 SCC 475.

[5](Civil) No.231 of 2010.


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