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Rough Draft Devraj Singh 49 Law & Morality

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  Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University Lucknow Khap Panchayats: A case of morality Taking the Law into its own hands? Submitted To: Submitted By: Mrs. Mrinalini Devraj Singh Law and Morality B.A LL.B Hons.) IX th  Semester Seminar Paper Section - A   Roll No: 49 Introduction It is evident that both law and morality serve to channel our behavior. Law accomplishes this  primarily through the threat of sanctions if we disobey legal rules. Morality too involves incentives: had acts may result in guilt and disapprobation, and good acts may result in virtuous feelings and praise. Law means the body of rules that we term legal, that is, the rules that are determined and enforced by the state and that are intended to channel behavior and to resolve certain adverse events. Thus, a legal rule might forbid littering in the park and impose a $50 fine for a violation, might impose expectation damages for breach of contract or might declare murder a crime and punish it with a sentence of at least ten years of imprisonment. Morality refers to rules of conduct that are associated with certain distinctive psychological and social attributes. In particular, a moral rule has the property that when a person obeys the rule, he will tend to feel the sentiment known as virtue and if he disobeys the rule, he will tend to feel the sentiment known as guilt. A moral rule also has the property that when a  person obeys the rule and is observed to have done so by another party, that party may  bestow praise on the first party who will enjoy the praise: and if the person disobeys the rule and is observed to have done so by another party, the second party will tend to disapprove of the first party, who will dislike the disapproval. The Panchayati Raj System was introduced in India with the aim of decentralization and democratization. However, Khap or caste panchayats wield much more power than these statutory panchayats in states like Haryana and order harsh punitive measures against couples who marry within the  gotra . Even powerful politicians do not dare invoke the law against them. These self proclaimed courts of caste lords in a village enjoy full legitimacy and authority” among the sections of their caste as the “The Custodians of Honour”. These earlier days‟ credible bodies have now turned political. It is through them that “the most regressive social views” are sought to be implemented. 1   1   1 . Article by Kavita, Kachhwaha   “Khap Adjudication in India: Honoring the Culture with Crime”  accessed <On http://www.sascv.org/ijcjs/pdfs/kavitaijcjs2011i&iind.pdf> last accessed 25th August, 2013  Pursuant to the discussion in the Parliament on a Calling Attention Motion and the assurance given by the then Union Home Minister that various aspects relating to “honour killings” will  be examined, a reference was made to the Law Commission of India by the Ministry of Law and Justice in September 2009. In India “honour killings” are mostly reported from the States of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and U.P. Bhagalpur in Bihar is also one of the known places for “honour killings” . Even some incidents are reported from Delhi and Tamil Nadu. Sections of Indian society and the media have for some time been demanding that these  panchayats, modern-day avatars of traditional social assemblies in rural north-western India that were primarily engaged in resolving disputes and ensuring adherence to custom, be restrained. Characteristically, the government has chosen to treat the issue as a law and order problem, rather than seeking to understand how and why khaps and their decision-making powers came into being and have continued to persist, which would have made handling the issue in a more prudent manner possible. The untrammelled power that the khap panchayats wield without any legal basis to it, the obstructionist and dogmatic attitude of people at large in villages, the shocking inaction of the police, the reluctance of the state government to catch the proverbial bull by the horns shows that India still has a long way to go to solve the  problem. 2  Thus, we see that these khaps have a long standing history with the people whose lives they try to regulate. We also see that the problem of honour crimes is not endemic to our country and occurs over the world but mostly in migrant communities in developed countries. As such the difference can be attributed to the mindset and awareness of the people of our country and as such work is needed on the above two aspects. The definition of what is morally right and wrong for people needs to be changed. Apart from legislation to effectively curb honour related crimes, it is equally important that the steps should be taken to organize counseling programmes for the village communities, for instance to explain to them that  sagotra marriages are not opposed to law, religion  sadachar’ or medical science. 2   “Khaps Call the Shots, Tough Steps Needed to Stop Honour Killings”, The Tribune , 13 August 2009   Statement of Problem The rising incidence of commission of murders of persons marrying outside their caste or religion and other serious offences perpetrated or hostility generated against them and also causing harm to their close relatives or a section of the community on considerations of caste and 'gotra’ are matters of grave concern. The reason for these crimes is that the people committing these crimes choose to uphold their morals over the law.  Those who may be directly involved in the actual commission of acts of violence or murder are either part of a community or section of the people and may also include members of the family concerned in the case of objected marriages. Very often such incidents and offences are not even taken cognizance at the threshold. The interven tion of caste/community assemblies in the name of 'Khap Panchayats‟, „Katta Panchayats‟ etc. in the occurrence of these offences and other related incidents involving serious life and liberty consequences, are frequently noticed. These bodies consider themselves to be the upholders of the morality of the society and as such act as moral police doling out punishments according to their own sense of what is morally right and what is morally wrong.  Such assemblies gathered on caste/community lines assume to themselves the power and authority to declare on and deal with 'objectionable' matrimonies and exhibit least regard for life and liberty and are not deterred by the processes of administration of justice. The Indian penal law (IPC) lacks direct application to the illegal acts of such caste assemblies. The pernicious practice of  Khap Panchayats and the like taking law into their own hands and  pronouncing on the invalidity and impropriety of Sagotra and inter-caste marriages and handing over punishment to the couple and pressurizing the family members to execute their verdict by any means amounts to flagrant violation of rule of law and invasion of personal liberty of the Persons affected.
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