Inter-caste marriages in national interest: SC
Source – Indian Express
The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that inter-caste marriages are in “national interest” as a unifying factor in a nation where caste system is a “curse”. “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. Inter-caste marriages are, in fact, in national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system,” a Bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra held in a judgment.
The court slammed caste system as a divisive factor which promotes families to murder their own children in the name of “honour killings”. The judgment, the court said, is to remind that this still is a democratic nation where a person who has reached the age of majority can marry “whosoever he/ she likes”. “There is nothing honourable in honour killing or other atrocities and, in fact, it is nothing but barbaric and shameful murder,” Justice Katju, who wrote the judgment, observed.
Comparing khap panchayats to “kangaroo courts” where instant justice is meted out without any regard to judicial process of the country, the court said young boys and girls who marry outside their castes fall victims to their institutionalised “atrocities”.
“We have in recent years heard of ‘khap panchayats’ which often decree or encourage honour killings or other atrocities in an institutionalised way on boys and girls of different castes and religion, who wish to get married or have been married, or interfere with the personal lives of people. We are of the opinion that this is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out,” the court said.
The judgment refers to the 2006 Supreme Court decision in Lata Singh vs State of UP which had held that inter-caste marriages are not banned under the Hindu Marriage Act or any other law. The maximum that relatives can do if they disagree with the inter-caste marriage of their children is to cut off all bonds with them. “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. This is a free and democratic country,” the court said.
Taking steps to enforce its judgment, the Bench directed the government to immediately suspend any District Magistrate or Collector and SSP/SPs as well as other officials concerned, chargesheet them and proceed against them departmentally if they failed to act against any instance of casteist violence despite knowing about it in advance or if they fail to “promptly” apprehend the culprits and institute criminal proceedings against them.
The court issued orders for the copies of the judgment to be sent to the state high courts and chief secretaries, home secretaries and director generals of police in all states and Union territories for circulation.
The court was passing the judgment on an appeal filed by Arumugam Servai of Tamil Nadu, who was accused of making casteist remarks during an altercation.