The Supreme Court on Monday said that Khap panchayats' diktat on dress code for women and asking them not to carry mobile is unlawful.
A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said such diktates are against the fundamental right to life and asked Khap Panchayats (caste-based councils) to file their replies on the issue.
"It (such diktat) also violates the law. How can someone ask others not to carry mobile?," the bench asked when the Centre told it that such orders are being passed by them against women.
Leaders of various Khap Panchayats of Utter Pradesh and Haryana appeared before the apex court in response to its invitation, extended during its last hearing to them to express their views. They told the court that "very distorted facts" have been projected about them in the court.
Top police officers from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana also appeared before the apex court and submitted that although Khaps issued some socially retrograde resolutions but they were never directly involved in 'honour killings.'
Additional director generals of police (law and order) of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh said Khaps also play positive roles at times like passing resolution against foeticide.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by an NGO Sahakti Vahini seeking court's direction to the government to take action against Khap Panchayat for allegedly harassing and killing couples, particularly women in name of family's honour for entering into inter-caste or intra-gotra marriages.
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, however, vehemently opposed the working of Khaps and contended that they are running parallel courts and adjudicating family matters.
She contended that diktats against women for not carrying mobiles and not to dress up in a particular manner are violation of fundamental rights of women and they should not be allowed to issue such diktats.
"There has been failure on the part of police to restrain them. They themselves claim that they are adjudicating body.
They are running parallel courts," the ASG submitted.
Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the court as amicus curie, also submitted that even though Khaps are not directly involved in honour killings but they certainly creates an atmosphere.
The advocates appearing for various Khaps submitted that the petitioner is trying to project them in bad light and they are not involved in honour killings.
"Khap is not doing such things. There is no diktat to carry out such things. We are not responsible for the killings. Killings are happening every where. It is happening in Delhi also," they contended adding "petitioner is trying to project us Talibani."
The court posted the matter for final hearing on March 5 and asked all the parties to file their responses by February 25.
The court also appreciated Khap panchayats' for their action against female foeticide.
The court on last hearing on January 4 had invited 'Khap panchayats' to hear their views before issuing any order on the allegation that they were responsible for harassing and killing couples, entering into inter-caste or intra-gotra marriages.
The Centre had fervently pleaded with the apex court to put in place a mechanism to monitor the crime against women by Khap panchayats, the caste-based councils, as the police has not been able to protect the women facing ordeal at their hands.
The Supreme Court had in June 2010 issued notices to the Centre and states on the growing cult of "honour killings" being reported from across the country.
The NGO complained that though there was a spurt in such killings in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Haryana, neither the Centre nor the state governments were taking steps to curb the menace due to "vote-bank politics."