December 4, 2022

Lata Singh v. State of UP- Directions on inter-caste marriage

Indian Supreme court has been a torchbearer of progress. It affirmed the changing needs, values and tendencies of society and new generation, and through the power of constitution it upheld the rights of people to live their life according to their wish until that ways of life do not harm other’s freedom.

Either it is abortion right to women, rights to LGBTQ community, declaring unconstitutional to adultery offence, giving right to single mother to give surname to their children or right to live in relationship, Supreme court always embraced the changes.

In lata singh v. state of UP, the supreme court took grim view on honour killings which occur due to inter-caste marriages and condemn the practice of honour killings in strong words.

What was the case?

The petitioner approached the supreme court by filing writ petition under article 32 with the pray to quash criminal proceeding of session court arising out after her brother filed an FIR of kidnapping of the petitioner.

The petitioner was a young woman aged about 27 years who was a graduate and at the relevant time was pursuing her Masters course in Hindi in the Lucknow University. Due to the sudden death of her parents she started living with her brother.

It was alleged by the petitioner that on 2.11.2000 she left her brother’s house of her own free will and got married at Arya Samaj Mandir, Delhi to one Bramha Nand Gupta who has business in Delhi and other places and they have a child out of this wedlock.

It was alleged that the petitioner’s husband and relatives had been falsely framed by her brothers who were furious because of the inter-caste marriage of the petitioner with Bramha Nand Gupta.

It was further alleged that the petitioner’s brothers were threatening to kill the petitioner’s husband and his relatives, and kidnap and kill her also. The Gupta family members were afraid of going to Lucknow out of fear of violence by the petitioner’s brothers, who were of a criminal bent.

The petitioner faced great difficulty from the side of her brothers. Her brothers beaten up her mother-in-law and other family members, their agriculture land was taken in forceful possession by her brother, false complaints were filed against the family members of petitioner’s husband, even distant relatives were to spared. Lower court and police taken action against the in-laws of petitioner. She went in Rajhasthan in hiding to save the life of her child where she approached state women commission and commission helped her.

What Supreme court said?

Supreme court expressed its disappointment over whole affairs and said that this case reveals a shocking state of affairs. Because if petitioner and her husband were major then there was no offence committed by them if they married outside the case as there is no bar to an inter-caste marriage under Hindu marriage act or any other law.

The court noticed that since several such instances are coming to court’s knowledge of harassment, threats and violence against young men and women who marry outside their caste, therefore, it is necessary to make some general comments on the matter.

“The nation is passing through a crucial transitional period in our history, and this Court cannot remain silent in matters of great public concern, such as the present one”,  the court said.

Caste system as a curse

Below is the observation of the court on the matter-

“The caste system is a curse on the nation and the sooner it is destroyed the better. In fact, it is dividing the nation at a time when we have to be united to face the challenges before the nation unitedly. Hence, inter-caste marriages are in fact in the national interest as they will result in destroying the caste system. However, disturbing news are coming from several parts of the country that young men and women who undergo inter-caste marriage, are threatened with violence, or violence is actually committed on them.

In our opinion, such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severely punished. This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter- religious marriage.”

Directions by the supreme court on inter-caste marriage

The court further made some directions in this regard, when it said,

“We, therefore, direct that the administration/police authorities throughout the country will see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by any one nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and anyone who gives such threats or harasses or commits acts of violence either himself or at his instigation, is taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police against such persons and further stern action is taken against such persons as provided by law.

We sometimes hear of `honour’ killings of such persons who undergo inter-caste or inter-religious marriage of their own free will. There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishment. Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism.

Decision of the court

The court allowed the petition and directed the session trial to quash the proceeding related to this case. And directed the police to ensure that neither the petitioner nor her husband nor any relatives of the petitioner’s husband are harassed or threatened nor any acts of violence are committed against them. If anybody is found doing so, he should be proceeded against sternly in accordance with law, by the authorities concerned.

Reference

Lata Singh vs State Of U.P. & Another on 7 July, 2006