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Honour Killing: A Deceptive Act to Shame

Every society consists of its own set of rules, regulations and principle which are to be followed by every member of the society from decades. These rules and regulation have created a mental barrier of thoughts in the mindset of people and if anyone from that society tries to cross that barrier of thoughts or tries to bring change in the rules, regulation and principles of the society then that person faces extra judicial punishment.

Honour Killing is one of those judicial punishments which are practiced in the society. Honor Killing is the murder of a family member especially girls or women by the other family members or relatives because they feel that the victim has brought disgrace to the family name and prestige and has also violated the norms and principles of their community, caste or religion. In Hyderabad, A father killed his own daughter and son in law because they had performed inter-caste marriage[1].

If we try to understand the mentality of the father who killed her own daughter; and son-in-law because of the mental barrier of thoughts and regulation of caste which exist in society, the main reason behind the occurrence of Honour Killing is illiteracy, backward mindset, stringent following of rules and regulation made by the society, caste or religion.

The Difference
Honour Killing is the murder of any family member or any other person who is related to the family in a manner which is not accepted by society. So, the question arises what is the difference between a murder and an Honour killing? The difference resides in the cause of honour killing and murder. The main causes behind murder in India is Personal Vendetta or Enmity, Property Dispute and Love affairs and other causes are supari killing, Theft or dacoity cases which sometime lead to murder, Rape and murder cases and the reason that lead to Honor killing comprises victim's denial to enter into a forced marriage, separation from their spouse, maintaining a relationship and eloping for marriage in other community or a social group, premarital sex, adultery, and involvement in homosexual relationships, marrying in same village or same gotra is considered wrong because it is believed that people from same gotra and same village are siblings.

The other important difference between murder and honour killing is in murder any random person is killed but in honour killing any family member or any other person related to family who has tried to bring change in the norms of society or has disgraced the pride and reputation of family in the society is killed. In Delhi, A girl was killed by her family members because she married in same gotra[2]. In Punjab, a couple was killed because they married in same village.[3]

Honour Killing and India
The concept of honour killing is associated with the prevalence of the patriarchal system. In fact, the practice is said to have originated in this kind of a system of male dominance.[4] Traces of honour killings are have also found place in the ancient mythologies. Ramayana mentions about the killing of Viduth Julvey, the husband of Suparnakha who was killed by Ravana.

The killing is considered to have happened as an honour killing because of the reason that Suparnakha performed 'GandharvaVivah' with him, which was considered as an insult to Ravana.[5]

Moreover, the practice of Sati where the wife had to jump into the burning fire is also a symbolic representation of honour killings. A wife who lives even after the death of her husband was considered as an unethical and hence would be required to commit suicide.[6]

This practice was followed for quite a long time irrespective of the reason of death of husband or the age at which death occurs. In India, the practice is supposed to have formally started mainly during the time of partition of India.[7]

As discussed, we can find the cases or instance of honour killing in mythological stories, Ancient or medieval history of India but as the time has passed the ways in which honour killing was practice has also changed. After getting Independence Indian constitution gave Fundamental rights like Right to life, Right to equality, Right to freedom of speech and expression etc to every citizens of country which basically give the right to every person to live their life in the manner they want but due to the backward mindset of some people in society and blind following of norms of society leads to honour killing cases in 20th century.

Such reasons promote the practices like Honour Killing in today's time and few of the cases are listed below:
The case of Smt. Chandrapati v. State Of Haryana And Others[8] involved the killing of two people from different caste and religion who eloped and got married. The relatives of the newly-weds, on knowing about the incident approached the khap Panchayat to take a suitable decision. However, the decision of the Panchayat was delivered in the favor of the family members and was sided on the aspects of caste differences.

The two of them were ultimately kidnapped and killed. When the case was bought before the Court, the Court awarded life sentence to the accused and imprisonment of seven years to those involved in the abduction. This case is hence known to be a landmark ruling in the history of honour killings in India.

Honour killings are still very prevalent in India. The following are two recent case laws in this matter. In the case of Shakti Vahini v. Union of India,[9] a writ petition was filed by an NGO by the name Shakti Vahini to bring about mechanisms to curb the practice of honour killings. The Court in its decision held that, a decision of two adults from entering into a marital relationship cannot be prevented by any knap Panchayat and such action would be deemed to be illegal and unethical. Further, the Court also laid down guidelines to prevent the occurrence of such practices and also brought about remedial measures in this regard.

Further, the case of State of Maharashtra v. Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar[10] also involved the killing of a girl because of having conducted a love marriage against the will of their parents. In this case, the Court opined that killings that happen around the world with the name tag 'honour killings' are indeed not 'honorable'. It can only be considered as the cruelty done by those with feudal minds trying to prove their part. Such practices deserve no leniency and are considered by this Court with utmost seriousness. The wrongdoers of such crimes shall be punished with no less than death penalty.

In the statistics taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India during the period 2014-2016 reveal that Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of honour killings followed by Madhya Pradesh, and third in line stands Gujarat.[11]

Legal Regulation of Honour Killing in India
Presently in India, honour killings are governed by the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.[12] Sections ranging from 299 to 304 deal with punishments for murder as well as culpable homicide not amounting to murder. For a person guilty of having committed the offence of murder, the respective punishment could be death sentence, life sentence and fine. Further in the case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, a person guilty of the offence could be awarded imprisonment upto 10 years and fine.

The Indian Penal Code also provides for punishment for the attempt to commit murder under section 307. A person found guilty of having committed this offence could be punished with imprisonment upto 10 years, and may even extend to life imprisonment. Similarly attempt to commit culpable homicide not amounting to murder is also made punishable under the Code. The wrongdoer could be sentenced upto 3 years; with or without fine. However, if any sort of hurt is occurred as a result of such attempt, the sentence can be extended to 7 years.

Apart from these major sections, the Indian Penal Code also provides for other punishments. This includes: punishment for criminal conspiracy, under sections 120A and 120B. Also, abetment of the above mentioned offences including murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder are made punishable within sections 107 to 116. Lastly, the Code provides for punishment to those acting in concert for commission of a criminal act with a common intention. The punishment for the same is enumerated under sections 34 and 35 of the Indian Penal Code.

A notable contribution and a big step ahead was made by the state of Rajasthan by passing the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2019.[13]

The passing of the Bill marks a laudable achievement made by the state. Now the state of Rajasthan holds the place of the first Indian state to have passed a law specially dealing with the issue of honour killing.[14] According to this Bill, those offences, not only limited to killings, but other crimes as well, motivated with honour is made punishable. These offences are categorised as non - bailable offences punishable by death or a life sentence, in addition to a fine of up to 5 lakh rupees.

Even though the Indian Penal Code provides punishments for murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder, as well as attempt and abetment of these offences, the gravity of the offence and the increasing number of cases demand new laws to be framed in this regard. Such new laws should serve as legal provisions specifically for the crime of honour killings.[15]
Some of the key amendments which could be brought about in this regard is to the Indian Evidence Act.

The suggested amendment would be to put the burden of proof on the accused. In the case of honour killings, those who stand in the position of wrongdoers are mostly the families and the knap Panchayat. Hence, they would be required to prove their innocence. The proposal to amend the Indian Penal Code, put forth by Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily was rejected by the Government. However, the Government required that adequate consultations be made with the different states to discuss about the requirement of creating a law to specifically deal with the issue of honour killings.[16] It is further understood that creation of a new law in this regard would be more helpful for the law enforcement agencies to do their part.[17]

Furthermore, another proposed amendment would be to make both the knap Panchayat and the actual people who commit the killing to be jointly liable for the act. In those places where knap Panchayats are still considered with utmost importance, their decision has a large impact on the acts done by the people in the name of honour killings. These association or the group of elderly people consider difference in caste and other differences with grave importance, and hence, in most cases involving marriages between people from different caste and religion, the knap Panchayats decide against them.

In view of this, making them jointly liable for the act would have the effect of recognising them also as joint perpetrators. In most cases, it is far more difficult to track down all the perpetrators, because of the fact that there have been instances where the victims were pelted by stones by a large crowd or mob.[18] Ideally, in such cases, all those who could be identifies should be caught and punished and adequate steps be taken to track down the all the others involved. This would help in creating a fear amongst them in committing further crimes of similar nature.

Human Rights Watch defines honor killings as “acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family by being romantically involved with or choosing to marry men outside their caste, class or religion.” In India, women constitute almost 97 percent of honor killing victims, according to activist Kathir Vincent, director of Evidence.

This being so, even now, some state authorities fail to report several cases of honour killings. These under reported crimes are often buried by the state authorities itself. Even amidst the Corona virus pandemic and lockdown, the murder of a man by his own family members in the state of Tamil Nadu was widely discussed.[19] This reveals the fact that, even now there has been no end to this heinous practice, and is widely practiced in different parts of the country. As already mentioned, the creation of a separate legislation to deal with this issue alone is the need of the hour.


  1. Honour Killings: More than 300 cases in last three years
  2. Marriage within same gotra: Delhi woman killed by Family, body driven 80 km to UP
  3. Young Married couple shot dead, mowed down by woman's relatives in honour killing in Punjab's Tarn Taran
  4. Meaning, Concept and History of Honour Killing,
  5. Honour Killing in India,
  6. Id.
  7. Meaning, Concept and History of Honour Killing,
  8. Smt. Chandrapati v. State Of Haryana And Others, 27 May, 2011
  9. Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, (2018) 7 SCC 192.
  10. State of Maharashtra v. Eknath Kisan Kumbharkar, Case No.3 of 2017.
  11. Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 2106,
  12. Kaushiki, Honour Killings: Are we prepared to tackle the problem? The PRS Blog (2010).
  13. Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill 2019,
  14. Anugraha Sundaravelu, Why India Needs a Separate Law for Honor Killings, The SWADDLE (2020),
  15. Honor Killing- Tradition Or Cold Blooded Murder?,
  16. Kaushiki, Honour Killings: Are we prepared to tackle the problem? The PRS Blog (2010).
  17. Honour Killings / Honour Crimes and the Need for New Law,
  18. Honor Killing- Tradition Or Cold Blooded Murder?,
  19. Tamil Nadu Man, Who Returned Home After Lockdown, Killed for Marrying Outside His Caste,

    Written By:

    1. Ashish Kumar, 2nd Year - Nmims School of Law, Bangalore
      Email: [email protected]
    2. Isha Tripathi, 2nd year - Nmims School of Law, Bangalore
      E-mail: [email protected]

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