The Punjab and Haryana High Court has laid down stringent guidelines for the State Governments, Police Officials, State Legal Service Authorities with the intention to ensure a proper investigation and an expeditious trial into of the cases of honour killing. The High Court while hearing the bail plea of the two accused of honour killing, in the case of Ravi Shankar vs State of Haryana noticed that various directions given by the Supreme Court were flouted and ignored.
In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, affidavits filed and FIR’s received in the case, the Court observed flagrant violations in the directions prescribed by the Supreme Court. Resultantly, the Court by exercising its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India/Section 482 of the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973, issued the following guidelines;
1. Directions to State Governments
The Punjab and Haryana Government along with the U.T Chandigarh administration have been directed to form committees consisting of Home Secretary, Finance Secretary, Additional Director General of Police, Legal Remembrancer and Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authorities, Punjab, Haryana and U.T. Chandigarh at the state level within one month. This committee shall examine all relevant issues in compliance with the guidelines and submit their reports with their recommendations within three months. The Governments shall consider these recommendations and employ policy-based action for implementing them. The committee shall also monitor compliance with the directions from time to time.
2. Directions to the Police
Addressed to the Director Generals of Police of the Punjab, Haryana and U.T Chandigarh, the directions include creating a special cell in each district which shall collect, maintain information and prepare the database of couples who approached the respective courts for protection. They were also directed to set up a 24-hour helpline to receive and register the requests for protection as well as provide necessary assistance to such couples.
Additionally, they are required to register an FIR immediately in the event any violence against inter-caste/inter-religion marriage or honour killing is reported. Later, they shall give the intimation to the concerned Deputy Superintendent of Police who shall then ensure the execution of an effective investigation of the crime and that the same is taken to its logical end with promptitude within the period of sixty to ninety days.
The police authorities are directed to take immediate steps to protect a couple/family and if necessary to shift them to an appropriate safe house. Any failure of the police officials of complying with the directions will be taken as an act of misconduct and result in departmental action.
3. Directions to Sessions Courts
All the Sessions Courts of the concerned States and U.T must ensure that the case of honour killing is assigned to fast track or one jurisdictional court for expeditious disposal within six months as directed by the Supreme Court. They should also conduct day-to-day trials as far as possible by allocating block of dates for trial and issue coercive processes for securing the presence of witnesses. Appropriate action should be taken against the witnesses who are absent without any lawful excuse. In the cases where the trial is not concluded within the aforementioned period, the concerned court shall then proceed with the submission of the progress report to the High Court to seek an extension of time.
4. Directions to State Legal Services Authorities
The State Legal Services Authorities are directed to set up schemes for the purpose of providing legal aid to the couples seeking protection to provide for their legal representation in cases of violence against inter-caste/inter-religion marriages. With the help of paralegal volunteers, they should raise public awareness against the issue of honour killing. They should also make sure that proper compensation is given to the victims of honour killing and their dependents including their legal heirs under under the Victim Compensation Scheme.
The Court took note of the observations of Supreme Court made in the case of Bhagwan Dass v. State (NCT) of Delhi where it mentioned how the issue of honour killing has become commonplace in many parts of the country and is most prevalent in Haryana, western UP and Rajasthan. Further noted that these killings are barbaric, brutal murders by bigoted persons and opined that they come under the category of the rarest of rare cases, deserving death punishment.