Dishonour killings: States get more time to respond

New Delhi: Members of a ministerial panel examining the issue of defining 'honour' killings today expressed "dismay" at the delay by states in sending their views on putting in place legislative changes to tackle the problem.

The Group of Ministers, set up last month after divergent views in the Union Cabinet on the issue, met here this evening to take stock of the situation.

It was decided to give states further time till August 25 to send their opinion on the matter as the changes proposed require putting a new law on the Concurrent List, which both the Centre and the States would have to legislate, sources said.

The group will meet sometime next week to further discuss the issue.

Some members of the GoM expressed "dismay" at the delay of the states in responding on the issue. They felt that states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Haryana should have responded fast as honour killings were rampant in these states.

Some others said that since the issue involved stringent laws, states were perhaps taking time to firm up their response. Electoral politics was also cited as a possible reason behind the delay.

Only two states had responded to the Centre's request for their views in the four week timeframe given to them earlier.

Home Minister P Chidambaram was of the view that a law was necessary to check the menace, sources said.

The government has mooted proposals to amend the law to classify incidents of 'honour' killings separately under Indian Penal Code which will also arraign a caste panchayat which orders such acts.

The matter came up for discussion at a meeting of the Union Cabinet on July eight which brought forth divergent views of the members. A section of the Cabinet favoured a new law to tackle the issue instead of amendments to the existing law. Following the differences, a decision was taken to set up a Group of Ministers on the issue headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

As per the amendment, bodies like caste panchayats can be brought under the ambit of the crime as they are accused in many instances of ordering killings in the name of protecting honour of a community.

If dishonour killings are defined as a separate crime under the IPC, those found guilty can punished with death or life imprisonment.

Dishonour killings -- where men and women are killed by their kin or members of their caste for defying traditions -- are rampant in western parts of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.

The violence is committed in the name of saving the honour of the community, caste or family. However, there is no data of such killings as their track is not kept separately.