The Supreme Court gave a controversial ruling a couple of days ago, reducing the sentence in a case of murder, from death penalty to 25 years of imprisonment without any option of release for two accused, and to 20 years for a third.
“The case relates to the killing of one Prabhu, a member of Ezhavar
caste of Kerala, who was hacked to death along with his father Krishnan Nochil,
brother Bijit, and a neighbour Abhyaraj, by the convicts who are Brahmins.
The accused were Dilip Tiwari and two others. Dilip’s sister had married Prabhu, disregarding her family’s opposition because he was of a so-called lower caste. This angered the accused and led to the murders. Prabhu’s sister and mother were also injured in the attack.
“The sessions court had sentenced the accused to death and the Bombay
High Court confirmed it, after which the accused had appealed in the apex
However, the Bench was of the opinion that Dilip had felt humiliated because of his sister’s marriage to a person of so-called lower caste.
“It is a common experience that when the younger sister does something
unusual–and in this case it was an inter caste, inter community marriage out of
the secret love affair–then in the society it is the elder brother who
justifiably or otherwise is held responsible for not stopping such affair.
“It is held as the family’s defeat. At times, he has to suffer taunts and
snide remarks even from persons who really have no business to poke their nose
into the affairs of the family. Dilip, therefore, must have been a prey of the
so-called insult which his younger sister had imposed upon his family and that
must have been in his mind for seven long months,” the apex court said.
“The apex court said the principle is that the court should not confine its
consideration principally or merely to the circumstances connected with the
particular crime but also give due consideration to the circumstances of the
“It is because of this that we have ventured to consider the mindset of
accused No.1 Dilip and the vicious caste grip that might have provoked the crime
committed by him. “
Many feel that there should be separate legislation to tackle such ‘honour killings’. A ‘calling attention motion’ was moved in the Rajya Sabha a few months ago.
Replying to the motion, Home Minister P.Chidambaram argued against a separate legislation.
“He explained that in the end: “Whatever law we make, honour killing is
murder. It would have to be tried as murder.”
Honour killings are still frequently committed in India. And excommunication by village Panchayats for marrying outside a person’s caste, disregarding laws in force, is still commonplace.
This Supreme Court ruling brings certain social realities in India to the spotlight once again.
Whatever laws are enacted, until the mentalities of people change, they will not be of much use.
The situation in the villages, where Panchayats are influential, is very different from that in the cities, where social taboos can be disregarded.
However, this retrogressive mentality is evident in cities, too. This particular case, the murder of Prabhu, took place in the city.
Should an ‘honour killing – as in this case of the murder of Prabhu and his family members- be treated as any other murder?
Should the disturbed mentality of the accused- because of the taunts by others in their community, and the perceived ‘loss of face’ because of the sister’s marriage to a person of ‘lower’ caste- be taken into account?
Should it be regarded as a particularly heinous crime, because in reality the sister and the victim had done nothing wrong?
What do you think?