The Supreme Court of India on Monday told 'khap' panchayats — or kangaroo courts — not to become conscience keepers of society, saying that no one should interfere in the marriage of two consenting adults, Hindustan Times reported.
The country's top court was hearing a plea seeking guidelines on how to stop 'honour killings’, moved by an NGO, Shakti Vahini, in 2010.
"When two adults get married, no third party should interfere in the marriage. Not even the state," a Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, was quoted as saying by India Today. The bench made it clear that even the parents of the two adults have no right to "interfere or threaten".
“We can’t say which marriage is null or void, which marriage is good or bad [...] just stay out of it,” Justice Misra was quoted as saying. “Two persons marry [...] they are adults — you are no one to interfere in it.”
Last month, the Supreme Court of India had termed as "absolutely illegal" any attack by "khap panchayats" or their associates against adult men and women opting for inter-caste marriage, said India Today.
Khap panchayats are mostly run by male village elders. Although illegal, they have considerable influence in rural north India. One such 'khap' panchayat leader in Haryana in 2012, according to a Times of India report, blamed chowmein for the rise in rape cases in India.
They are known for issuing diktats aimed at upholding the socially conservative traditions that have long held sway and resisting modernisation ─ such as banning women from wearing jeans.
But they have also been blamed for ordering serious crimes, including the so-called 'honour killing' of couples who marry outside caste or religion.
Critics accuse them of acting like kangaroo courts and handing down public beatings and other punishments for perceived crimes.