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A Socio-Legal Study on Honour Killing: Manslaughter in Name of Family’s Honour

Shruti Singh Chauhan is a law student at PSIT College of Law, Kanpur

Published onNov 27, 2020
A Socio-Legal Study on Honour Killing: Manslaughter in Name of Family’s Honour


India is a multicultural society with pluralism. Indian culture is based on a different set of values, beliefs, faiths, and ideologies of spiritual holy books like Gita, Mahabharata, Bible, and Kuran. It is deep-rooted in its patriarchal culture which exists in Indian society since time immemorial and in patriarchal society, women are considered torchbearers of family honor. This honor is of utmost importance for indian families. India being the largest democracy of the world still here in some parts of the country womens dont have right to express their choice of marriage they don’t have the right to choose the dress they wear; they cannot do anything of their choice against the community interest and customs of culture. If they do so they are countered by the members of family in the name of honour and this gives rise to a new crime of honour killing i.e. killing in the name of honour to regain the honour and esteem of the family. Honour killing or cultural killing are customary practice where a member of family is killed by other other due to belief of perpetrators that this person has brought dishonour to the family by any act. The term “HONOUR ”in honour killing is misnomer as there is no honour in killing someone by quashing their freedom of choice and expression in the name of family’s honour. There are no specific laws for such a heinous crime and due to this various cases remain unreported and unnoticed.

This paper aims to analyze and investigate socio-legal perspective of honour killing in indian society , factors responsible for such killings, constitutional provisions, legal provisions related to it and what remedies can be sort of to get rid of such evil which is prevailing in the society.

Keywords: honor killing , custom, cultural killing, legislation, khap panchayat


In a pluralistic society like India which has faced major problems due to many existing evil in the society but prevalent of them is the caste system. It is one of the prior and rigid institutions in Indian society where people are governed by some set of conduct that society has set differently for different castes. These codes of conduct are binding on a particular set of caste and people follow them blindly without questioning its validity.In Hindu caste system we have Brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya, shudras. These are 4 sets of caste known as varna system. Brahmin is supposed to be superior ones then come kshatriya , vaishya and lowest group known as shudras.Here I have nothing to deal with study of Varna system but I am elaborating the caste system just because it is one of the leading contribution that gave rise to honorless crime called honor killing. Next what is to be stated here is Existing dominant Patriarchy system in India. Our Beautiful mother nation is still facing the dominant culture imposed by Bharat Mata’s Sons on the earth. They make females still feel low to them and this all is just because of Patriarchal root setup of the society.It is considered that females are torch bearers of family Honor and respect. So, they have to program their behavior , actions, feelings, thoughts and duties as per the demand of the Patriarchal system.Basically society has set up boundaries for womens in every corner of the society. Today in the present scenario not everywhere this problem exists but still there are many corners of the nation where women function as puppets of their family and societal norms. Whenever a girl falls in love and wishes to marry whether with the same caste or with another caste, Unfortunately their choice to choose their life partners is also snatched at that moment because their feelings for someone gives them an end result in the form of Death by their own family members or Clan councils popularly known as Khap panchayat.

A woman who is continuously being ill-treated by husband when she raises the voice her voice is stabbed and she falls prey to prevailing customary killing on the grounds that she has breached Patriarchal norms and raised a voice against Husband who is considered superior to her. There are many such reasons which this paper aims to address in which womens fall prey to such customary Killings. In such cases it is believed that the victim has brought dishonor to family by her acts and is killed in the name of honor. Men’s also fall prey to such killing by women's family with whom he is found to be in inappropriate relationship.Indian law has no such provision which provides direct shade to victims and due this very reasons such crimes goes unreported. There is no honor in such killings and the name is just a misnomer. This paper aims to mainly discuss socio -legal perspective of such killings, its legal as well as constitutional provisions and provides remedies to fight this existing unreported evil in the society.


Sneha Singh (2017) in an article written by her dealt with honour killing or customary killing and the author has put light on the origin of this social evil in India and various case studies which show the grave nature of such killings. The author has discussed about the need for enacting a specific law in India and about the steps taken by the Government and various commissions to deal with such honour crimes.

Keerthana.R.Shenoi & Dr .S. Pandiaraj(2018) have explained in thier research paper about the various reasons for the honor killing in India and also explained if there is existing need of codified law dealing with honor killing in India.They have explained in thier research paper about the role of patriarchal society in honor killings and laid down its reason.

Dr. Kavita Dhull (2017) has discussed the legal and constitutional provisions related to honor killings and also discussed various societal impacts of such customary killings taking place and also presented the role of caste panchayat in it.she has stated that Honour Killing have been defined as patterns of conduct cutting across Communities, cultures, religions and nations and manifested in a range of forms of violence directed in the majority of cases, against women including murder (Honour Killing) and forced marriages, Honour Killing is considered to be a crime that threatens the unity and harmony of the community and it acts as a brief preventing women from progressing in their lives. Honour Killing and punishment have been documented over centuries among a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups throughout the world.

Vipin Kumar Singhal in this paper has recommended the need of codified law for Honor killings in india and explained how gender discrimination takes place in society and this becomes rot cause of honor killings.He has explained that caste is basic institution which is the cause of evil in the society and these caste are working within thier codified rules of conduct where no one can act outside the aid conduct and when they move out of it they are boycotted from the society.

R.Preethi & Dr.A.Sreelatha (2018) have laid down the basic idea behind honor killings and explained about honour killing and to bring out the seriousness of the crime and to educate the society about its effects and to analyze the triggers of honour killing in India and what can be done to improve the situation in the society and she has explained that Honour killing is seen as a dirty behaviour by the member of the family thinking to bring purity to the family. It is an act of murder by the family on the family members to bring honour to the family to eradicate the shame and dishonour brought by the family member. The male member of the family kills the female member who has violated the wishes and honour of the family. This is a kind of pre-planned murder by the members of the family against the member who had bought shame to the family. Mostly these acts are caused due to triggers done by the relatives, society, neighbours by whom the accused feels dishonoured and gets provoked.


This papers aims to cover following objectiveS-

  • To study socio-legal perspective of Honor Killings in India

  • Factors responsible for Honor killings in India

  • To study constitutional provisions related to Honor killings

  • To study legal provisions

  • To provide remedies for getting rid of Honor Killings


Honor killings which is also called as Customary Killing means murder of a family member or member of clan council by family member or clan council itself on the grounds that they believe that particular person who falls victim to honor killing has brought dishonor to family and made them fell down in the society. It is not only the females who fall prey to such killings but Mens are also victims for such crimes. These crimes have beliefs originated from customs, caste beliefs and religious practices.The male status is superior to females and when women try to overreach her boundaries, chooses to marry someone, or many more acts done against the wish of family she falls victim to such honor killings.It was estimated by united Nation PopulationFund that around 5000 are killed for reasons of Honor Killing on an Annual basis1.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines Honor Killing as “the traditional practice in some countries of killing a family member who is believed to have brought shame on the family.”


Major broad causes which lead to freely killing of humans in the name of Honor is just that victim has brought shame to the family or clan council. The following stated are some causes and factors for Honor killings in India2

  • When a girl wears the dress of her own choice which is not considered appropriate or decent and is not accepted by society.

  • Denial to perform arranged marriages.

  • Marrying with the person of one’s own choice or marrying with someone who is of different caste.

  • When a woman seeks divorce from her husband it is considered a trigger to honor killing. Marriage connects two families together and when women attempt to take divorce without husband’s consent this germinates a thinking in society that women is bringing dishonor to family by discussing marital problems outside the four walls of home.

  • One who becomes victim of Rape suffers voilence and is boycotted from society anf family as well in some parts of the country as it is bellieved that Women who lost her virginity before marriage why whatever reason has brought disgrace to the family. It is believed in the culture that women should preserve her virginity until marriage.

  • When couples who are in a love relationship are known to family, they also in some parts are grabbed under the umbrella of honor killings as being in a relationship is considered as bringing shame to family.

  • Getting engage in homosexual acts or where a men dresses in a “feminine way“ or a girl dresses in a “masculine way” are supposed to bring disnonor to family by thier acts and they also fall prey to honor killings.

  • Engaging in sexual acts outside marital bond and engaging in an appropiate relationship. In such cases, the husband feels that his wife has brought shame to her family and him as well and triggers honor killing for breaking the rules of the sacred institution of marriage.


This case is of honor killing of a newly wed Jat couple in 2007.Babli and Manoj belong to Jat community and lived in Karora village in Haryana and they both belonged to Banwala Gotra. The clan council i.e. Khap Panchayat in Karora village in Kaithal district,Haryana ordered for their killing and passed a decree that they both have married against the societal norms and have quashed the marriage regulations laid down by Jat community.This ruling of Khap Panchayat was rooted on an assumption that one cannot marry in his or her Gotra as they are considered as siblings . In case of Manoj and Babli they belonged to same Banwala Gotra so as per clan council they are siblings and they cannot marry each other , if they did their union would be invalid but Manoj and Babli proceeded with Marriage, due to which they were abducted , and killed by relatives of Babli.

Kidnapped and Murdered

The couples were in a bus on thier to Delhi , Babli’s relative stopped the bus in between near Raipur Jatan village. They kidnapped the couple in a scorpio driven by Mandeep Sing (driver). A road contractor who witnessed the kidnapping filed the complaint in Bhutan police station at Karnal District.After Kidnapping couples were beaten and Babli was forced to consume pesticide by her brother. Other family members of Babli pushed Manoj on the ground . Manoj-babli was put in a sack and family members of Babli dumped them in Barwala Link canal in Hisar District. On 23 June i.e after nine days police found the body of Manoj- Babli.On 24 June their bodies were cremated after preserving Manoj’s shirt and babli’s anklet. On July 1 they were identified by their family. After this the police caught all the accused and captured the scorpio in which they kidnapped Manoj-Babli.

It was the very first time that Indian Court ordered the sentence of the five perpetrators in the Monoj-Babli case 4 for execution in any Honor Killing case." Out of seven accused, five have been given death sentences. This will convey a straight message to the public that law is always greater than and above the khap." Head of Khap Panchayat who ordered the killing was awarded a life sentence, Driver who was involved in abduction received seven years of prison-term.

It was said by Home Minister P. Chidambaram at that time that the centre was going to propose an amendment to Indian Penal Code after this Manoj- Babli case and to make Honor killing a “distinct offense”.

Further is the case Bhagwan Das Honor killing5 it was said by Supreme Court that Convicts of Honor Killings should be awarded with Death sentence as it is one of the rarest of rare crime. In this case a Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha said that Honor Killings fall under the category of rarest of rare crime and they deserve punishment and it is the right time to unveil such practices and people who are doing so must be made aware of the penal consequences against them.


Constitutional Provisions7

Indian Constitution is the supreme law of the land which protects the interest of people and provides certain rights and duties to ensure its citizens a dignified life.

The constitution of India guarantees everyone Right to equality before law and equal protection of law8 which means everyone is equal in the eyes of law and the acts of Honor Killings are straight forward against the idea given by Article 14 as it enshrines that every person should be treated equally irrespective of their Gender or rank in the society. As it is stated before that womens are forward victims of Honor Killings so this is creating gender inequality as womens are not given equal standards as given to mens in the society.

Indian Constitution under “Article 15(1)”that state should not discriminate against citizens on grounds only of religion, race, sex, caste, place of birth or any of them.In case of Honor Killing it seen that females are in subordinate position in the society with respect to males, they are not treated fairly and are supposed to be torchbearers of family’s Honor and they are supposed to live within the boundaries and rules laid down by society

Right to freedom9 and Right to life and personal liberty10 is provided under Indian Constitution.Honor killing straightaway violates the Right to freedom of a person and hits the constitution.Every person has Right to live freely and choose their life partners and under Right to freedom no person can be instructed by other to live according to his or her whims and fancies or wishes.

The most important fundamental Right granted by the constitution is Right to life and personal liberty where the person has Right to live as per his need and he is the supreme authority of himself. This Right provides that a person should be alloted a dignified Life but in case of Honor Killing dignity of person is snatched and subjected to violation of Rights to life and personal liberty.

Directive principles of the state policy provide provision for equal justice and free legal Aid11 which states that the state should ensure that its citizens are provided with adequate means of livelihood. Bt if we see the case of honor killing it deprives the women of their life and “Article 39 (e) and (f)”states that it must be ensured by the state that there no exploitation against the childhood and youth and they are protected against growing and material abandonment.Many young married couples , youths fall victim to honor killing which is a customary killing and they are killed without mercy.DPSP must be followed for promoting good governance in the country and it is the need to evict this kind of heinous crime in society and protect the innocent masses who are vulnerable to such crimes.

National Level Legislations

Special Marriage Act, 1954

This act provides the provision for special form of marriage for Indian citizens as well as Residents of India who are residing in foriegn nations.Under the Special Marriage Act marriage is done irrespective of religion,caste or faith of parties intending to marry.The practise of Honor Killing is violative of this act as in the case of honor killing majorly it happens that couples are denied of inter caste marriages and if they don't follow such instruction they are stabbed and murdered12.

Domestic Violence Act,2005

In the case of Vishwanath and Palakonda it was held that if the woman is restricted or denied from marrying the person of her choice it amounts to emotional abuse of the woman under the Domestic Violence Act,200513.

Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006

Under this Act it is provided that Human Rights of Every individual must be protected. Commissions and Court must be constituted for securing and protecting Human Rights of every individual.

Honor killings portray direct violation of Human Rights and inspite of the presence of these legislations such evil crime exists in the society14.

Indian Majority Act, 1859

Section 3 of Indian Majority Act provides that a citizen who attains the age of 18 years i.e Majority or who completes the 18 years of age can marry a person of their own choice. One who is major has Right to marry any person no matter of another caste, religion or community, there is no prohibition on inter-caste , inter-community marriage under Law15.

Thus, any act of Honor Killing is violative of this Act and needs attention to be thrown out of society.

Guidelines Issued by the Supreme Court16

In Case of Shakti Vahini v. Association of India and ors17 which settled on 27 March,2018 Supreme Court gave the accompanying guidelines with respect to control the Honor Killings and Supreme court set out a lot of rules intended to stop obstruction by khap panchayats and said that oneself designated town courts can't stop a marriage between two consenting grown-ups.

  • The Supreme Court has requested that the state governments distinguish regions, sub-divisions or potentially towns where occasions of respect honor killing or get together of Khap Panchayats have been accounted for over the most recent five years.

  • Official accountable for the police headquarters of the distinguished zones should be additional mindful if any case of inter caste or inter religion marriage inside their locale goes to their notification and ought to illuminate to his quick unrivaled official and furthermore cozy the jurisdictional Deputy Superintendent of Police and Superintendent of Police.

  • On accepting such data, the Deputy Superintendent of Police or a senior cop ought to quickly collaborate with the individuals from the Khap Panchayat and put forth for them that assembling of such gathering/gathering isn't allowable in law and to shun from proceeding with such a gathering.

  • In spite of taking such measures, if the gathering is led, the Deputy Superintendent of Police by staying present during the gathering and put forth for the get together gathering that no choice can be taken to make any damage to the couple or the relatives of the couple. In the event that this fizzles, every one taking part in the gathering other than the coordinators would be by and by subject for criminal indictment.

  • The Deputy Superintendent of Police ought to likewise guarantee that video recording of the conversation and support of the individuals from the get together meet is done based on which the law - upholding hardware can fall back on reasonable activity.

  • On the off chance that the Deputy Superintendent of Police, after association with the individuals from the Khap Panchayat, accepts that the social event can't be forestalled as well as is probably going to make hurt the couple or individuals from their family, he will present a proposition to the District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the District/Competent Authority of the concerned district for giving requests to make preventive strides under the CrPC and summon prohibitory requests under Section 144 CrPC and furthermore by causing capture of the members in the get together under Section 151 CrPC.

  • The Home Department must step up and work in a joint effort with the state governments for sharpening the law authorization organizations by including all the partners to meet the objective of social equity and the rule of law.

  • There ought to be an institutional apparatus with the important coordination of the considerable number of partners. The diverse state governments and the middle should take a shot at sensitisation of the law implementation organizations to order social activities and attention to control such viciousness.

  • Notwithstanding the preventive estimates taken by the State Police, on the off chance that it goes to the notification of the nearby police that the Khap Panchayat has occurred and it has passed any diktat to make a move against a couple/group of a between standing or between strict marriage, the jurisdictional police authority ought to promptly hold up a FIR under the proper arrangements of the Indian Penal Code including Sections 141, 143, 503 read with 506 of IPC.

  • After registration of FIR, the Superintendent of Police/Deputy Superintendent of Police ought to be hinted who, thus, should guarantee that powerful examination of the wrongdoing is finished.

  • Moreover, prompt advances ought to be taken to give security to the couple/family and, if essential, to evacuate them to a protected house inside a similar area or somewhere else remembering their wellbeing and danger discernment.

  • The District Magistrate/Superintendent of Police must arrange with the protest in regards to dangers controlled to such couple/family with most extreme affectability. After the marriage, if the couple so want, they can be given convenience on installment of ostensible charges in the sheltered house for a time of one month to be reached out on month to month premise however not surpassing one year in total, contingent upon their risk appraisal on case-to-case premise.

  • The underlying request with respect to the grievance got from the couple ought to be endowed by the District Magistrate/Superintendent of Police to an official of the position of Additional Superintendent of Police. He will lead a primer request and find out the validness, nature and gravity of risk recognition. On being fulfilled with respect to the genuineness of such dangers, he ought to promptly present a report to the Superintendent of Police in a few weeks.

  • The District Superintendent of, endless supply of such report, should coordinate the Deputy Superintendent of Police accountable for the concerned sub-division to cause to enlist a FIR against the people undermining the couples and, if important, summon Section 151 of CrPC.

  • Any disappointment by either the police or locale official/authorities to conform to the previously mentioned headings ought to be considered as a demonstration of intentional carelessness as well as offense for which departmental move would be made under the administration rules. The departmental activity will be started and taken to its sensible end, ideally not surpassing a half year, by the authority of the primary occurrence.

  • Regarding the decision of this Court in Arumugam Servai (supra), the states are coordinated to make disciplinary move against the concerned authorities on the off chance that it is discovered that such official(s) didn't forestall the episode, in spite of having earlier information on it, or where the occurrence had just happened, such official(s) didn't expeditiously capture and organization criminal procedures against the guilty parties.

  • The State Governments ought to make special cells in each District including the Superintendent of Police, the District Social Welfare Officer and District Adi-Dravidar Welfare Officer to get petitions/grumblings of badgering of and danger to couples of between position marriage.

  • These unique cells ought to make a 24-hour helpline to get and enlist such objections and to give fundamental help/counsel and insurance to the couple.

  • The criminal cases relating to respect murdering or viciousness to the couple(s) will be attempted under the steady gaze of the assigned Court/Fast Track Court reserved for that reason. The preliminary must continue on an everyday premise to be finished up ideally inside a half year from the date of taking cognizance of the offence.


“Sections 299-304”: This section Penalizes a person who is guilty of murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The punishment for murder is life sentence or death and fine. The punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder is life imprisonment or imprisonment for upto 10 years and fine.

“Section 307”: This section of IPC penalizes attempt to murder which includes impeisonment upto 10 years and fine.If hurt is caused to person by such act of attempting to murder in that case offendor’s penalty can extend to life imprisonment.

“Section 308”: This section Penalizes attempt to commit culpable homicide by imprisonment for upto 3 years or with fine or with both. If it causes hurt, the person shall be imprisoned for upto 7 years or fined or both.

Section 120A and B:Any Person who is a party to criminal conspiracy is penalized under this section.

“Sections 107-116”:This section Penalizes persons for abetment of offences including murder and culpable homicide.

“Section 34 and 35”: Criminal acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention are penalized under this Act.

“Section 300”: introduce “fifthly” clause to Section 300 of IPC which at present defines “murder” under four categories. The additional definition would make khap-dictated honour killings a distinct offence and make all those who participate in the decision liable to be tried for the main charge, that is murder, and liable maximum penalty, death19.


  • A separate Law must be made to curb this issue of Honor killing effectively and rigidly.

  • Right now there exists no clear definition of Honor Killing and so there is a need to give a clear and unambiguous definition of Honor Killing.

  • Education is the strongest key to combat thus evil. So, the people should be provided education and make the people aware of available remedies to tackle such heinous crimes.

  • Extra importance which is given to caste should be minimized to greater extent.

  • Khap Panchayat should be strictly prohibited and declared unlawful.

  • There should be establishment of special cells and helpline numbers to serve the protection to the victims.

  • Women should be given empowerment.

  • Awareness campaigns must be carried on to make people understand the adverse effect of honor killings in society and to make them aware about how to curb such crimes.


Honor killing is an evil which is prevailing in the society and somehow is is dominated by caste system which has secret sanction of society to preserve their institution of caste and instruction laid down by customary practices.In a country like where honour related crimes are not new nor on the decline, there is no separate law related to tackle these issues. Women’s rights activist, Brinda Adige, thinks that there needs to be separate law against honour crimes in IPC. “Lawyers and policemen look at honour killing as just another murder case, no one looks at what preceded the murder. Honour killings are usually premeditated-there is immense brutality that is committed, especially atrocities against SC and ST individuals. Lawyers base their defence claiming’ a crime of passion’ was committed, or that it was an ‘emotional’ attack. Judges, in the same way, hear the case a murder, and not an honour killing”20It is now a serious crime in India and we are not able to eradicate it from our society just because we don't have strict straight forward laws on it. It is the need of the hour to protect the interest of the youths who desire to express their choices and their choices are being oppressed by societal norms. They are pressurized to follow the rules of caste system , societal rules and stand at par with Patriarchal set up. Womens are more victims of this heinous crime and it attacks women's sexual autonomy. They are not entitled to live a free life without shackles and boundations.In this new India we have codified laws but still it is the matter of concern to see that fundamental rights are being superseded by customary practices which are attacking and violating basic Human Rights of Individuals. Judiciary has acted wisely in many cases of honor killings but some accused enjoyed to escape from getting convicted just because of a loophole that there is no separate law to tackle this crime.The most appropriate weapon is that there should be liberal mindset rather than narrow thinking caged in caste system and patriarchy because law can only punish perpetrators but cannot remove the problem purely as it is rooted in mindset of society.If there somes problem in the family due to practice of marriage which arefenied by family members than what to the large extent they should do is to end the social relationship with couple instead of doing this mercy less act just because a person has not adhere to family’s regulations. Life is a great gift by God.So, it should not be snatched from any human.

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