Honour Killing in India : History, Legal Stand & Landmark cases

Honour Killing

This article analyses the hidden dark side of Indian society. It emphasizes several cases of honour killing and the factors associated with them. Furthermore, it talks about the relevant legislation and the various measures taken by the government for the protection of the individual.


Indian society is multi-religious and culturally diverse. Bhagavad Gita, The Quran, and The Bible are spiritual sacred books in India that have influenced Indian society’s thinking patterns. People of various religions, castes, and subcastes live in India. The caste system and other religious rituals have an impact on people, and they mindlessly obey them. For example, if a person commits something that is against his or her family’s honour, his or her family members will kill him or her to maintain the family’s honour. This type of behavior is known as honour killing.

In patriarchal countries, women are viewed as family honour, and they are taught from a young age not to do anything that would jeopardise the honour of their family. Any attempt by women to assert their rights is considered a betrayal of the community’s traditional beliefs, and they are slain by their family members to protect their honour. The most common causes for honour killings are inter-caste marriages, refusal to join into love marriages, inter-religious marriages, and victims of sexual assault. There is no specific law in India that deals with it, but there are other regulations that are used to penalise people.


Honour killing is a centuries-old custom that is still practised in a variety of cultures today. Arie Nautain, a Dutch turkey expert at Leiden University, coined the term “honour killing” in 1978. Honour killings began before the Islamic era, but they were more prevalent throughout the Islamic era. Some writers claim that honour killing occurs around the world, while others claim that it is unique to certain communities in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where it is strongly ingrained in customs and traditions dating back to ancient times.

According to some experts, honour killing was practised by the Baleech and Pashtun tribes of Balochistan. Throughout ancient times, adultery and rape were considered unprincipled practices in Rome, and women’s lives were taken away to protect the honour of the family and community. In Greek society, women are regarded as inferior to males, but they are also victims of men. It has been established that several women were put to death for adultery and suspicion of adultery under the cover of honour crimes in ancient Egypt and American tribes.

Indian Perspective

Honour Killing
Source: The New Indian Express

In India, honour killing has a long history. It first appeared before the Islamic era and developed in strength over time. Honour killing is a common occurrence that is not restricted to Muslim or Islamic societies. This horrific practise appears to have gained pace in contemporary history with the partition of India in 1947 and 1950 when India and Pakistan were partitioned. Many women are killed brutally on both sides to uphold family honour. Women from India were marrying males from Pakistan, and vice versa, as a result of forced marriage and rape. This would prompt a quest for those marrying in other countries, religions, or castes, and when they returned home, they would be slain to protect family honour and prevent their family from being labeled outcasts.

In several Indian states, such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, the western region of Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, honour killing is still practised. Religion, caste, community, and traditional attitudes are the most essential factors in an honour killing. Because most cases are classified as suicides or accidental deaths, the correct record of honour killing cases cannot be obtained.

Factors Responsible For Honour Killing

  • Male-dominated society

India is a patriarchal country. Women are relegated to insignificance in a conventional and customary paradigm of life, and women suffer silently as a result. Every step of a woman’s life is marred by gender-based prejudice. Despite the passing of various legislation, women’s standing has remained constant. For women, the home has become the most dangerous place, but for men who commit domestic violence, the home has become the safest place. Sadly, the status of women has not improved even after 75 years of independence. Even though the Indian Constitution permits it, the fundamental right to equality for women is guaranteed. Religious norms and traditions continue to bind women.

In Madhu Kishwar v. the State of Bihar, Justice K. Ramaswamy said unequivocally that “an Indian woman has experienced and continues to suffer discrimination in silence, self-sacrifice and self-denial are their nobility, and when they have been subjected to all inequalities and discrimination.”

  • Caste system

In Indian civilization, there are two divisions: caste and religion. Despite various legislative revisions, as well as numerous documentaries and value education, people’s conceptions of caste remain intact. When some cultural groups do not permit inter-religious marriage, some inter-caste weddings are also refused. This is because a person cannot marry on his or her own or parents’ gotra. Not only do caste weddings lead to honour killings, but they also lead to inter-religious marriages.

According to Justice Markandey Katju in a Supreme Court decision (Latha Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2006) 5 SCC 475), honour killings are nothing more than cold-blooded murders.” Intercaste and interfaith marriages should be encouraged to build the social fabric,” the Supreme Court stated.

  • Khap Panchayat

A Khap Panchayat is a group of people or organisations that exert social influence in their society. They’re typically found in villages in India’s north. They seize control of the law and indulge in heinous acts.

In the matter of Smt Laxmi Kachhwaha vs. Rajasthan State, the court issued several decisions against Khap Panchayat (1999). In that case, a public interest lawsuit was launched in Rajasthan’s High Court, alleging that the Khap Panchayat was operating illegally and infringing on fundamental human rights. The state authorities were directed by the Court to limit the operation of these Panchayats and ensure that their members were arrested and punished.

The Apex Court later opined in Arumugam Servai v State of Tamil Nadu (2011) concerning a person’s age of majority and their decision to marry the person they love, as well as the fact that Khap Panchayats incite honour killings and meddle with people’s personal lives.

  • Lack of education

One of the primary reasons for honour killings is lack of education. People are uneducated and unaware of the rights guaranteed to them and how they can claim their rights.

  • Honour based Crime

There is not clearly defined and enforced laws. Honour-based crime is a widespread but undetected occurrence in India. Despite a rise in honour killings, judgements, and indignation in Indian courts, governments have responded to these crimes in a criminally reckless manner. There is no legal definition of the crime, no legal recognition of distinct components of the crime, no protection for couples who choose to be together, no prevention measures, no culpability, and no penalty.

Murder (under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code) and culpable homicide (under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code) are the only charges that can be filed (Section 304 of the PIC). As a result, the overwhelming majority of homicides go unrecorded. As a result, no trustworthy data on comparable assassinations in India exists. A special category for honour killings was established only following a campaign sponsored by women’s organisations. The National Crime Bureau (NCRB) only began collecting data on honour crimes in 2014, and since then, the amount of data collected on this topic has increased by 297 per cent. In 2015, the country saw 251 occurrences of honour killings, up from 28 in 2014.

Legal Aspect Of Honour Killing

Constitutional Violation

The most serious crime is honour killing, which is a clear breach of constitutional rights and rules. The Indian Constitution is the most important instrument that safeguards the rights of Indian citizens. Article 14 (Right to equality), Article 15(1) and 15(3) (prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste, creed, sex, or place of birth), Article 17 (Abolition of untouchability), Article 19(1) (freedom of speech and expression), and Article 21 (Prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste, creed, sex, or place of birth) (right to life and personal liberty).

Honour crimes are mostly committed against women, with men making up a smaller percentage of the victims. Women and men have the freedom to free expression, which leads to limitations and, as a result, more honour crimes and violations of basic human rights. It is completely unconstitutional to act in this manner.

The Democratic Principles of State Policy (DPSP) cannot be applied, but they may be studied for the sake of good governance in the country. Article 39(A) ensures the state’s security and prevents it from losing its source of income. In every other case, however, honour crimes deny most women. Article 39 (e) & (f) ensures that children and teenagers are not exploited. Many young people and married couples are exploited as a result of traditional traditions such as honour killing. As a result, it is the government’s responsibility to safeguard these vulnerable people and their lives from this heinous conduct.

Penal Codes Existing Under Indian Penal Code

Section 299-304: These sections punish culpable homicide that does not amount to murder, a crime punishable by a life term, death sentence, or a fine. If culpable homicide does not result in death, the penalty is ten years in jail and a fine.

Section 307: Attempting to murder is punishable by up to ten years in jail and a fine under this section. If the victim is injured, the sentence may be increased to life imprisonment.

Section 308: This section punishes attempted culpable homicide with a sentence of three years in jail, a fine, or both. In addition, if the individual is injured, the penalty can be up to 7 years in prison, a fine, or both.

Sections 120A and B: This section punishes people who are involved in a conspiracy.

Sections 107-116: These sections punish abetment of crimes such as murder or culpable homicide.

Sections 34 and 35: This section punishes criminal activity carried out by a group of persons with a common goal.

Section 300- This section of the IPC introduces the “5th” clause, which categorises “murder” into four kinds. Honour killings would become a unique offence under the new concept.

Indian Majority Act,1875

According to Section 3 of the Indian Majority Act of 1875, each person residing in India reaches the age of majority when they reach the age of 18 years, unless the statutes specify otherwise. A child’s guardian, on the other hand, must be at least 21 years old, not 18. When the Khap Panchayat forcibly separates married spouses who were otherwise entitled to such a marriage due to age or other factors, the Act applies. It appears that this is against the law.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

The Indian Parliament passed this law to prevent violence against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The goal was to help Dalits become more integrated into Indian society.

Offences under this Act include:

  1. forcing an SC/ST to eat or drink something they don’t want to eat or drink.
  2. Disrobe, exhibit naked or with a painted face or body.
  3. To insult, humiliate or outrage a woman SC/modesty. ST’s SC/ST sexual abuse of a lady
  4. It’s illegal to force an SC/ST to leave their home or town because there have been several honour killings, the law is associated with them.

Special Marriage Act

In parliament, a bill has been introduced that modifies the Indian penal code, the Special Marriage Act, and the Indian Evidence Act. The special marriage statute was updated in 2015 to add provisions for a 30-day notice period for marriages solemnized under the act. The modifications to the Special Marriage Act of 1954 that are required are necessary since the procedure we are following is a little longer. The entire process takes about 45 days. Because they are vulnerable, the couple may be attacked or killed during this time, a situation known as “honour.”

Indian Evidence Act

The provisions under the Indian Evidence Act were amended, and now the burden of proof is on the accused. As a result, it will be up to the khap panchayat or family members to prove their innocence.

International law and its Applicability

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares. As stated in Articles 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women have the right to life, liberty, and personal security, as well as the right to be free of torture and cruelty in human treatment, as well as all degrading treatments in the name of culture and custom practises “.

Honour killing is prohibited by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To put it the other way, everyone should respect and protect the right to life of others. Therefore, every type of homicide is a human rights violation. As a result, honour killing is a human rights violation. Human rights and justice are inextricably interwoven. While defending Human Rights, we strive for justice. Some of the principles that regulate human rights are as follows: a) Universal and inalienable (b) Equal and nondiscriminatory (c) Interdependent and indivisible.

According to their philosophy, human rights are universal and ideal for restoring peace and justice among humans. Human rights are ingrained in man’s environment, and cultures and ideas influence one’s viewpoint. The desire to restore family dignity, as witnessed in many honour killing cases, drives the murderers. Marriage for love, career women wearing exposing clothing, and hanging out with friends from different cultures are all banned in their eyes. As a result, denying a woman the opportunity to participate in all of life’s pleasures is acceptable.

United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against the women

Under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, men and women should have equal rights and opportunities (CEDAW). Analyzing the important contribution of women to the wellbeing of the family and the development of society, which must still be fully recognized, the social importance of motherhood and the role of both parents in the family and the upbringing of children, Analyzing the important contribution of women to the wellbeing of the family and the development of society, which must still be fully recognized, the social importance of motherhood and the role of both parents in the family and the upbringing of children.

Honour killing is prohibited by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other international human rights treaties in general. The majority of honour killings are horrific and include torture.

Pursuant to the Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, For the purposes of this convention, torture is defined as any act that causes significant pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,  is intentionally inflicted on a person for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession from the person or a third party, punishing him for an act he or a third party has committed or is suspected of doing, intimidating or coercing him or a third party, or for any other cause based on prejudice of any type, when the pain or suffering is caused by or at the request of, or with the approval or compliance of, a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Landmark Cases

Manoj-Babli case

MANOJ-BABLI is a landmark case of honour killings, involving Manoj and Babli as the victims. They married because they were in love. Enraged family members tracked down the victims. The family had taken the matter to the Khap Panchayat, which first ruled that anyone who came into contact with the victim would have to pay a fine of ₹ 25,000 and that no one should approach the victim as a result. The family had tracked them down and presented them before the Khap Panchayat, which was likewise opposed to the marriage. Because the victims were from a different caste, they decided against the victim. The decision was made in society’s best interests. The khap panchayat was also named as a suspect in the murder of the victim for the sake of the family’s honour. Because Babble’s grandfather was the khap’s commander, members of Babli’s family were involved in the assassination. The victims, on the other hand, were kidnapped and murdered.

COURT DECISION: When the case was brought before the Karnal District Court, moreover, five of the murderers were sentenced to life in prison. This is the first case of honour killings to reach a landmark decision, with the offender receiving a life sentence. The abductor’s driver received a seven-year term for his part in the kidnapping. The most terrible crime is honour killing.

Sujit Kumar and Ors. V. State of U.P. and Ors. On 6 May 2002

Sujit Kumar belongs to the jatt caste, whereas Rashmi belongs to the Tyagi caste. Rashmi Shri Ved Prakash filed a missing person report stating that Sujit Kumar abducted his daughter Ms. Rashmi, who lives in the Muzaffarnagar district. Ms. Rashmi said that she married Mr. Sujit Kumar on her own volition and under the Arya samaj regulations. Her parents had threatened to kill her because she opposed her parents’ desire for her to marry an elderly man, according to a letter she wrote to the district magistrate. She further added that her parents are pressuring her to divorce Mr. Sujit Kumar or else they will murder her and dispose of her body, thus she has fled Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and is hiding somewhere. Mr. Sujit Kumar and Ms. Rashmi Tyagi both represented themselves in court and admitted that their marriage was held with their consent and according to Arya samaj norms.

As a result, the court observed that an 18-year-old person has the right to select his or her interests under section 3 of the Indian Majority Act, 1875. The F.I.R. imposed under section 362/366 of the Indian Penal Code is now revoked.

The State of Rajasthan v. Smt Laxmi Kachhwaha (1999)

In that instance, public interest litigation was brought in Rajasthan’s High Court, alleging that the Khap Panchayat was operating illegally, infringing on fundamental human rights. The state authorities were instructed by the Court to restrict the operation of these panchayats and to guarantee that their members were arrested and punished.

Shakti Vahini v Union of India, 2018

The state of Jharkhand responded, detailing the measures taken against people implicated in such crimes, among other things. Apart from claiming that honour killings are uncommon in Jharkhand, it is also said that the state will take proper efforts to counteract these crimes. In the name of the Delhi NCT, a counter-affidavit was filed. According to the affidavit, the Delhi Police does not keep separate records for cases of honour killings.

It was observed, however, that 11 cases had been filed at the time the affidavit was filed. It is strongly suggested that these cases can be handled by the District Police and that a special unit within the Delhi Police is established for serious crimes involving internal security. Such cases can be referred to the said cell, and there is no need to set up a special cell in each police district. The Delhi Police has sensitized officers on the ground in this regard so that the case can be handled with the requisite sensitivity and sensitivity.

Current Scenario

Honour Killing
Source: The Hindu

Various Acts have been modified in various ways. In the fight against crime, the central government adopted the “Honour” and Tradition Act of 2010. Interference with the freedom of marriage alliances in the name of honour and tradition is prohibited under the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2019. It was suggested that India’s penal code should be amended. The Khap panchayat was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. Enact comprehensive and autonomous laws that penalize criminals, conspirators, and instigators equally. In the 12th five-year plan, the Commission on Women’s and Children’s Rights documented the honour killings, Because the current IPC provisions are insufficient to handle them.


Honour killings are India’s most brutal and horrific crimes. It has a long history in Indian culture and is still practiced in many parts of the country. Caste and religion, as well as communities and traditional beliefs, are the main reasons. According to a United Nations estimate, family members and family members murder 5,000 women and girls each year. Even though the All Domestic Women’s Association offered numerous recommendations, the government took no action, and India still lacks a specific law.


Name the leading case law on Honour killing in India?

The Manoj–Babli honour killing case.

What is the punishment for honor killing in India?

Death Sentenced or imprisonment of life to accused convicted of honour killing and penalty extend to Rs 5 lakh. In case of grievous hurt, punishment will be from 10 years imprisonment for life with a fine of Rs 3lakh and in some cases 3-5 years jailed with fine up to 2 lakhs in hurt or injuries.

Who is at risk of Honour based violence?

It is almost always restricted to female children and young people i.e. those under 18 years old.

What is khap killing?

Khap panchayat emerged as a social body responsible for the administration and security of all the villages that fell under its territory.  In the past, many times these incidents of marriage have been punished by the khap panchayats with death sentences and such actions are called ‘honour killing’.

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