Law, not GoM, needed on dishonour killings: Brinda

CPI-M MP Brinda Karat seeks a separate law to deal with dishonour killings.

New Delhi: Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Brinda Karat has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging a separate law to deal with dishonour killings instead of referring the issue to a Group of Ministers (GoM).

In the letter written on Friday, Karat said the government should take a firm decision for a separate law and place its draft in the monsoon session of Parliament. She said referring the matter to a GoM would delay the process.

"I am writing to you in connection with the decision of the government to refer the issue of legislation for `honour crimes` to a GoM. Such a decision will undoubtedly further delay the entire process," she said.

The government on Thursday decided to set up a Group of Ministers to look into changes in the law to deal with dishonour killings.

Karat wrote that "democratic minded citizens" of the country were appalled at the retrograde assaults and violent action against young adults who assert their constitutionally and legally protected rights for self choice in a marriage or relationship.

"What is required is a firm decision by the government for a separate law, the draft of which may be placed in Parliament in the coming session," she said.

Karat, who is a member of the CPI-M politburo, said: "The country was not unaware that in some of the states where this particular type of crime is taking place, there are political considerations at work to downplay the magnitude of the crime."

Nearly 20 cases of dishonour killings have come to light between April 09 and June 30 this year, largely reported from northern India, particularly Haryana, Rajasthan and even the national capital. Many of the killings were at the behest of khap panchayats or caste councils to nullify marriages in the same gotra (sub-caste).

In an apparent reference to Congress-ruled Haryana, Karat said: "There is an attempt by those in office in at least one of the states where such crimes have occurred to defend the highly retrograde actions of self-styled caste panchayats in the name of tradition."

"You will agree that to put vote bank politics over the requirements of those in office to uphold the rights granted by the constitution is abhorrent. Yet this is being done. Delays on the part of the central government to decide on a firm course of action in setting up a legal framework strengthen the perception that it is caused by the pressure of vote bank politics."

She said the Rajya Sabha had discussed "crimes related to `honour`" almost a year back and parties cutting across political lines had supported the suggestion that there should be a separate law to deal with the range of so-called dishonour crimes.

Pointing out that there were many dimensions to the issue, including the absence of a definition of dishonour crime, she said the Home Ministry had expressed reservations over the usefulness of a separate law which "reflected the flawed understanding of those charged with addressing the crime".

"I request you to do justice to young couples who are victims of anti-democratic and casteist notions and beliefs which are strengthened by the absence of a comprehensive law to address the crimes they face in the name of honour," Karat said.


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