Is there a law to stop honour killing?

 “Is there a law to stop honour killing?”


Honour killing is described as the killing of a family member, particularly a girl, woman, or man who is seen to bring dishonour to the family. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 251 honour killings in India in 2015, indicating a considerable increase in persons who believe that they are acting in defence of their family's honour. The fundamental cause of the crime is that the majority of caste members refuse to accept inter-caste marriages under the guise of maintaining their caste’s or family’s social status. Because of the complicated socio-cultural issues, the crime of honour killing is on the rise; to reclaim the honour and respect that had been lost as a result of the marriage.

In India, there is currently no special law or act in place to deal with honour killings. However, the following provisions are in place to keep crimes in check.

Penalties under IPC (Indian Penal Code)

  • Sections 299-304 of IPC: Any person found guilty of murder or culpable homicide that does not amount to murder is penalised. Murder is punishable by life imprisonment or death, as well as a monetary fine. The penalty for non-murder culpable homicide is life in prison or up to 10 years in prison, including a fine.

  • Section 307 of IPC: Penalises death threats for up to 10 years in prison and a fine. If a person is harmed, the penalty can be as severe as life imprisonment.

  • Section 308 of IPC: Attempting to commit culpable homicide is punishable by up to 3 years in prison, a fine, or both. If it causes injury, the person may be sentenced to up to 7 years in prison, or fine, or both.

  • Section 120A and 120B of IPC: Anyone who is part of a criminal conspiracy should be penalised.

  • Sections 107-116 of IPC: Abetting homicides, including murder and culpable homicide, is punishable.

  • Section 34 and 45 of IPC: Penalises several-person criminal acts committed in support of a common objective.

Fundamental and Constitutional Rights

Honour killings are in violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution (equality before the law) and Article 19 (Right to Freedom). The petition claims that the horrific killings kept hidden to protect the family’s reputation violate Article 21 of the Constitution (protection of life and personal liberty).

The honour killings violate Article 14 (equality before the law), Article 15 (1) (restriction of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth), and Article 15 (3) (creating special provisions for children and women), Article 19 (protection of freedom of speech), Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty), and Article 39 (f) of the Indian Constitution that states that providing children with opportunities and facilities to grow in a safe manner and condition of equality and dignity, and protecting children and youth from abuse and abandonment.

The Indian Majority Act, 1875

Under section 3 of the Indian Majority Act, 1875, every person residing in India shall acquire the age of majority at the age of 18 years, unless stipulated otherwise in his or her rule. The age of majority for a  guardian assigned to a juvenile on the other hand would be 21 and not 18.

The Act applies in circumstances when khap panchayats have forcibly separated married couples who were otherwise eligible for marriage on the basis of age, etc. In such cases, it is a violation of this Act’s provisions.

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

The Indian Parliament passed this Act to prevent violence against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The purpose was to encourage Dalits to integrate into mainstream Indian society. Violations under this Act include:

1. Various activities such as forcing an SC/ST to eat or drink something unpalatable or undesirable.

2. Removing clothing or showing off naked with a painted face or body.

3. Attacking, dishonouring and violating the modesty of an SC/ST woman.

4. Sexual harassment of a woman from an SC/ST community.

5. Forcing an SC/ST to leave his or her house or community.

Because of several honour killing incidents, this Act has become synonymous with honour killings.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 ensures more thorough enforcement of the constitutionally given rights of women who are victims of domestic violence of any kind, as well as matters related to or incidental to it.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872

The Indian Evidence Act, of 1872 also imposes penalties for individuals who conceal evidence either before, during or after a suspected crime has occurred. The facts relevant when a right or custom is in dispute are outlined in Article 13 of the Act. The Act is critical in bringing justice to persons who have been wrongfully convicted by khap panchayats.

The Special Marriage Act of 1954

The main goal of the Special Marriage Act of 1954 was to establish a special form of marriage for Indians and Indians living abroad, regardless of their religion or faith, to carry out marriage plans. However, it bans such marriages:

  • Between sapindas – people ascend through their mother in the third generation and in the fifth generation ascends through their father.

  • Marriage between some degrees of forbidden ties, such as sisters and brothers is likewise prohibited.

  • The law establishes the requirements for legal marriage and prohibits marriage between close relatives.

There is a need for a separate law

The varied and complex regulations, as well as the growing number of offences of honour killing, necessitates the creation of separate and distinct legislation to ensure that a simple and strict law and procedure is followed. Making honour killing a distinct crime will help law enforcement agencies become more accountable. Honour killings committed by panchayats or individuals are prohibited under Article 21 and are therefore punishable.

Various authorities and individuals have proposed a variety of solutions to deal with the issue of honour killings, including additional legislation as well as amendments to existing laws. Prohibition of Crimes in the Name of “Honour” and “Tradition” 2010 – in a 2018 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that parents’ or Khap Panchayats’ interference in an adult couple’s marriage decision is unlawful.

There is a need for the enactment of a comprehensive, stand-alone law. Punishment of criminals, conspirators, and instigators on an equal basis. The existing restrictions in the IPC are insufficient to deal with honour killing, according to the Planning Commission of women and child rights in the 12th five-year plan. As a result, additional legislation is required to achieve the aforementioned goals.

According to the committee, public adoration or idolization, as well as harassment and killing in the name of honour, would be prosecuted. There is a call for a separate law to combat such horrible crimes. Proposed revisions to the Indian Penal Code to prevent caste-based prejudice and killings in khap panchayats. And the Hindu Marriage Act of 1985 should be revised to address the issue of same-gotra marriages being prohibited. 


It may be concluded that the government has steadily implemented a number of effective measures to prevent honour killings through amendments to various laws, resulting in considerable improvement. Feudal mentality must fade into the background, allowing emancipation to emerge. To grow in power and majesty, the right to enjoy freedom must be consistently and aggressively safeguarded. However, the current legal framework is insufficient and ineffective. As a result, separate legislation is required to address the situation. In order to prevent honour killings, special legislation against them must be enacted.

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