5 get death, one life in Haryana honour killing case

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - 22:23

Karnal: In a landmark judgement in a
Haryana honour killing case, a court here on Tuesday awarded
capital punishment to five persons and life sentence to one
for murdering a couple on the diktats of a self-styled
community panchayat for marrying against societal norms.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Vani Gopal
Sharma pronounced the sentence after reserving the judgement
in the case yesterday.

The prosecution had termed the case as the "rarest of
the rare" and pleaded for capital punishment to the six
convicts for killing Manoj (23) and Babli (19), who hailed
from Karora village in Kaithal district and had got married on
May 18, 2007.

Last Thursday, the court had convicted them for
murdering the couple of the same `gotra` (sub-caste) in 2007.
Another person was held guilty of abduction and the quantum of
punishment was reserved.

It is the first case in which the boy`s family had
moved court against the honour killing after the `khap`
panchayat (caste-based council) had ruled against the couple`s
marriage.

Those sentenced are the girl`s brother Suresh, uncles
Rajender and Baru Ram and her cousins Gurdev and Satish
besides leader of the panchayat Ganga Raj. A driver Mandeep
Singh was convicted of kidnapping and awarded a seven year
prison term.

Public prosecutor Sunil Rana described the court
verdict as landmark judgement as khap panchayats "are acting
against the law. They are taking law into their own hands and
despite protection of the courts, innocent couples are being
murdered".

Pronounced the judgement in a jam-packed courtroom,
the judge observed that khap panchayats have functioned
contrary to the Constitution, ridiculed it and have become a
law unto themselves.

Rana said the legal battle was "quite difficult" as
witnesses were not coming forward due to fear. "So you can
imagine the terror spread by such panchayats."

The counsel for the convicts said that they would move
the High Court against the verdict. They had earlier claimed
there was insufficient evidence against their clients.

Lawyer for Manoj`s family, Lal Bahadur said that the
court has asked the Superintendent of Police to take action
against police officials who had acted negligently.

"This is a very good verdict. It will sent a very good
message. It will restore common man`s faith in courts," he
said, adding, "Lighter punishment would have been a mockery of
justice."

Manoj`s sister Seema said she was "a bit sad" that the
panchayat leader who, she claimed, was the mastermind, had
been given life sentence.

The couple had eloped in May 2007 and married secretly
in Chandigarh. The panchayat had asked them to dissolve the
marriage as people of the same gotra are considered as
siblings.

Apprehending threat to their lives, the couple
approached the police, which produced them before a Kaithal
court on June 15, 2007. However, on the same day, they were
kidnapped at Nilokheri as they were returning after a court
appearance at Kaithal escorted by the police.

An FIR regarding their kidnapping was registered at
the Bhutana police station on June 20.

The incensed family members and villagers announced
the couple`s social boycott. Their mutilated bodies were found
in a canal on June 23. The hands and legs of Manoj and Babli
had been tied.

According to the police, the girl`s relatives had
dragged the couple out from a Karnal bound bus, which they
boarded from Pipli town in adjoining Kurukshetra district and
murdered them before dumping their bodies in the canal.

The trial in the case continued for 33 months and 41
witnesses deposed in the case during 50 hearings.

It was virtually a lone battle for Chanderpati,
55-year-old mother of Manoj. Amid continuous threats to the
boy`s family members, the widow mustered the courage to speak
out and seek justice over the role of community leaders in the
murder of her son and his wife.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - 22:23

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