Court orders death for five in Haryana honour killing (Fourth Lead)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

KARNAL - In a first, landmark ruling on Haryana’s khap panchayats, notorious as kangaroo courts, a court Tuesday sentenced to death five men who brutally killed a young couple three years ago for marrying against the community’s wishes. The court said the khaps “have ridiculed the constitution”.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Vani Gopal Sharma also came down heavily on these traditional caste-based khap panchayats, one of which had held null and void the May 2007 marriage of Manoj, 23, and Babli, 19.

Those sentenced to death included Babli’s brother Suresh, uncles Rajinder and Baru Ram, and cousins Gurdev and Satish.

Khap panchayat leader Ganga Raj, who too was convicted last week for murder along with the five, was given life imprisonment. Mandeep Singh, a driver accused of abducting the couple, got seven years in jail.

Manoj, who ran an electronics repair shop at Kaithal town, and Babli of Karoran village married in May 2007 after falling in love. Her family was opposed to the marriage, saying they shared a ‘gotra’, or belonged to the same sub-caste, and so should be deemed to be brother and sister.

After a khap panchayat declared their marriage as void, the six men conspired to kill the couple and were convicted last week.

Babli’s relatives chased the couple for days. In June 2007, just a month after the marriage, they dragged the newly-weds out of a Karnal-bound bus. The man and his newly-wed wife were murdered and the bodies dumped in an irrigation canal.

The judge declared that the unlawful decisions of the ‘khap panchayats’ had to be stopped. “The khaps have become a law unto themselves. They have ridiculed the (Indian) constitution.”

This is the first time that a court has convicted and sentenced those guilty of obeying the diktats of khap panchayats. Earlier, when such cases came up in courts, the court would order protection for the harrassed couple.

The court ordered each of the convicts to pay a compensation of Rs.100,000 to the next of kin of the victims’ families.

The dead man’s family welcomed the ruling, but one of them said they would have been happy had the guilty men been hanged.

Chanderpati, mother of Manoj, who fought for justice despite all odds, said: “The whole village has boycotted our family but it did not deter us from seeking justice. I am happy with the verdict that at last my son and daughter-in-law (Babli) have got justice. But I do not understand why the court has spared Ganga Raj.”

“Our fight has not ended here. We will not rest till he (Ganga Raj) also gets the death penalty,” said Chanderpati.

Lal Bahadur, the prosecution lawyer, hailed the verdict. “This is a historic judgement,” he said. “It is a message to the society and to khap panchayats.”

Lawyer Harish Salve said in New Delhi: “The judge has seen the enormity of the crime. It is a big step in the right direction.”

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