Case Analysis: Shakti Vahini v Union of India

By | June 30, 2021
Case Analysis: Shakti Vahini v Union of India

Last Updated on by Admin LB

In the case of Shakti Vahini v Union of India, the court laid down guidelines that need to be implemented by the government for the eradication of Honour killing in India.

An honour killing is the homicide of a member of a family by other members, due to the perpetrators having the belief that the victim violated the principles of a community or a religion the victim has brought shame or dishonour upon the family.

Assertion of choice is an insegregable facet of liberty and dignity. That is why the French philosopher and thinker, Simone Weil, has said:-

“Liberty, taking the word in its concrete sense consists in the ability to choose.”

When the ability to choose is crushed in the name of class honour and the person’s physical frame is treated with absolute indignity, a chilling effect dominates over the brains and bones of the society at large.

In Lata Singh v. State of U.P[1], the court observed that there is no bar for inter-caste marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act or any other law. Court further held that this is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he /she likes.

Citation: WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 231 OF 2010[2]

Judges: CJI Dipak Misra J. A.M. Khanwilkar J. Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud

I. Facts

An NGO called Shakti Vahini had approached SC seeing directions for the govt. to take preventive steps to deal with honour killing. The writ petition has been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking directions to the respondents- the state and the central governments to take preventive steps to combat honour crimes, to submit a National & State Plan of action to curb crimes of the said nature and further to direct the State Governments to constitute special cells in each district which can be approached by the couples for their safety and well-being.

Also, prayers have been made to issue a writ of mandamus to the State Governments to launch prosecutions in each case of Honour killing and take appropriate measures so that all such honour crimes and embedded evil in the mindset of certain members of the society are dealt appropriately.

II. Issue

  • Whether the elders of the family can be allowed to kill the young for marrying against their wishes and against the customary practices?

III. Arguments

Arguments of petitioner

  1. It was contented by petitioners that because IPC does not appropriately deal with honour killing. Khap panchayats do not feel guilt or hesitation in committing such crimes.
  2. It was further submitted that crimes like honour killings are a violation of Art 21.
  3. It was submitted that honour takes precedence over the choice of two consenting adults, and they are subject to inhuman behaviour for expressing their choice.

Respondent’s submission

  1. Union govt. submitted that it is working with the state government to either amend the provisions of IPC or enact separate legislation to deal with honour crimes.
  2. It is also submitted that it is considering the ‘The prohibition of interference with the Freedom of matrimonial Alliance Bill ‘(Recommended by LC 242nd report).

IV. Judgment

The court in this case observed: Two consenting adults do not need the consent of their families and elders to get married. Further, any attempt of the Khap panchayat or any other body to suppress their wishes to marry each other is illegal. The court observes: “Class honour, howsoever perceived cannot smother the choice of an individual which he or she is entitled to enjoy under our compassionate constitution “

Referring to the 242nd report of the Law Commission, the SC highlighted the devastating impact is not the only type of crime ordered by Khap panchayat. It is a part of honour-based crimes. Any type of honour-based crime which is meant to suppress an individual’s choice to love marriage is illegal.

Reliance was also placed on Arumgam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu[3], to hold that Honour Killing in this sense violates individual liberty and freedom of choice (para 42)

Directives issued by the court

Preventive measures

  • State govt. are requested to identify areas where incidents killings or assembly of Kaph panchayats have been reported in the last 5 years
  • The superintendents of police in these areas are required to be more vigilant in case of inter-religion or inter-caste marriages taking place in the area.
  • If a police officer comes to know of any gathering of Khap panchayat taking place in the area, should inform his superior officer as well as Deputy/ Superintendent of Police.
  • On receipt of such information, DSP/SP is required to be present and he shall inform the members that they are not to take any decision to harm the couple or their family. If such a decision is taken each member will be criminally liable.
  • If after interacting with members of the Khap, DSP has reason to believe that the meeting cannot be prevented or the couple is likely to be harmed, then he can report to the DM/SDM asking to issue order u/s 144, 151 CrPC.
  • Home department and state govt. are required to work together to sensitise the law enforcement agencies. They must involve all stat
  • Stakeholders in this process. There should be institutional machinery to coordinate with all stakeholders.

Remedial Measures

  • Despite the preventive measures, the Khap panchayat passes any verdict against a couple an FIR should be registered.
  • Police are also directed to take the effective investigation of the charge made in the FIR and provide protection to the couple/family and also if necessary organise their marriage with police protection.
  • State govt. to make provision o ‘safe houses’ for such couples.
  • On receipt of a complaint from a couple/family that any hap panchayat is opposing their marriage, the DM/S shall entrust an Addl. SP with a duty to conduct a preliminary investigation to ascertain the authenticity, nature and gravity of the threat. On being satisfied as to the authenticity of the threat he is required to submit a report to the SP.
  • Failure by police or district officials to comply with the above directions shall be considered as an act of deliberate negligence or misconduct for which departmental action must be initiated and concluded within 6months.
  • Disciplinary action will be taken against officials who
    • knew about the incident but did not prevent or
    • where such incident had occurred, they did not respond promptly (Arumugam Servai v. State of TN).
  • Special cells and 24-hour helplines must be created.
  • Speedy trails for cases relating to honour killings and violence against couples. These cases must be concluded within 6 months, this direction also applies to pending cases.


Though the Judgement itself needs to be celebrated, the problem in India is usually with the enactment of guidelines. The judgement does its best to firmly condemn the practice of honour killing and issues stern guidelines for the same but these guidelines have not been implemented by central or state governments.

That is Delhi Commission for women had filed a writ petition in DCW vs Union of India 2019 demanding for proper implementation of these guidelines.

The Government will have to formulate and implement policies in order to uplift the socio-economic condition of women, sensitisation of the police and other parties concerned towards the need for gender equality.

[1] Writ Petition (crl.)  208 of 2004

[2] Read Full Judgment Text: Available Here

[3] Criminal Appeal No. 959 of 2011

  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination
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