Khaps cannot prohibit use of mobiles by girls: SC

New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh and Haryana Monday told the Supreme Court that there was no incident of khap panchayats (caste councils) issuing unlawful dictats ostracising couples for marrying in the same gotra, fixing dress codes or prohibiting use of mobiles by girls in the last two years.

Senior police officers of the two states, appearing before a bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, said that in recent past, there was no incident of khap panchayats interfering in the lives of the young people including their matrimonial lives.

As police officers from Uttar Pradesh said that there was no incident of khap panchayats issuing dictates or ostracising people for same gotra marriages, Justice Alam said: "According to you in last two years, the khap panchayats have not done anything that was unlawful."

At this, one of the counsel appearing for NGO Shakti Vahini said that "they (khaps) violated the law but that was not given serious consideration"." The court was told that "in last two years there may not be honour killings, but there are other violations of laws like banning the use of mobile by the girls."

The court said that dictates on the dress code and prohibiting the use of mobiles by girls was unlawful.

Additional Director General (Law and Order), Haryana, M.S. Mann also told the court that "in Haryana in last two years, there has not been one case where there was any violation of law by the Khap Panchayats."

As police from both the states deposed, Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising told the court that some measures need to be taken and they (police) must be asked what steps they have taken.

Reading from the memorandum submitted by the Sarva Sri, an organization of 23 khaps, she said that they wanted the amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act seeking provision banning the same gotra marriage. Jaising told the court that this memorandum was submitted in the wake of Law Commission report recommending changes in the Hindu Marriage Act.

As she read from the khap's memorandum that said that they adjudicated on civil and family matter, Justice Desai observed: "They are running parallel courts."

As khap panchayats wanted to file their response to the petition by Shakti Vahini, the court adjourned the hearing and asked all the parties to complete their pleading by Feb 18 and said that it would hold final hearing into the matter March 4.

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