Honor killing or shame killing is a cultural crime or cultural tradition prevailing in Indian families where usually murder of any family member mostly women (as they are considered as honor of the family) or any other person who is related to the family in which he/she is held to have brought dishonor or disgrace to the family. This act is done by their own family members in order to restore their pride and honor.

In India, there are more than thousand cases reported every year though the figures remain unreliable. Honor killing is basically practised in Northern part and rural areas of India. In many cases, multiple family members plan the murder through a formal “family council”. And in certain cases, where the victim is an outsider, not punishing the latter would accuse the family of cowardice.

Khap Panchayat:

Khap Panchayat is a group or organization of caste courts in a village. They support honor killing and especially indulge in offensive acts against the couple who want to marry according to their free will. These caste-based councils are common in the inner regions of several Indian states, such as Haryana, Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh, and parts of Rajasthan. The Khap Panchayat has been declared illegal as well as unconstitutional by the court but still they exist as they are believed to give instant verdict, thereby saving time. But do we actually need it?

Psychology Behind Honour Killing:

  • When a woman refuses to enter into an arranged marriage.
  • Marrying outside one’s caste or religion.
  • When a woman wants to seek a divorce even from an abusive husband.
  • Same Gotra marriages.
  • Infertility
  • Allegedly committing Adultery.
  • When a woman is a victim of a sexual assault or rape.
  • Disobeying dress code given by the family members.
  • Homosexuality

Provisions in the Indian Law:

Sections 107-116, 299-304 and 307-308 of the IPC penalizes people for committing or abetting culpable homicide and murder, they also impose punishments for the same. Sections 34 and 35 punishes for an act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention. Section 120A and 120B penalizes whoever is a contributor in a criminal conspiracy.

Honor killing infringes the rights of the person given in Article 14(Equality before law), Article 15(Restriction of discriminations on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of

birth and creating special provisions for women), Article 19(Protection of freedom of speech and expression), Article21(Protection of life and personal liberty) and 39(f) (Protection of children against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment) of the Indian Constitution.


  • Death penalty or lifetime imprisonment and penalty of about 5 lakhs awarded to the accused convicted of honor killing.
  • In cases of grievous hurt a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment may be imposed along with a fine of Rs 3 lakh.
  • 3-5 years of imprisonment with fine up to Rs 2 lakhs will be imposed in case of hurt and injuries.

Case Law:

Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India is a case in which the court gave the following judgement:

  • The criminal cases pertaining to honor killing or the violence of the couple(s) shall be tried before the Court/Fast Track Court earmarked.
  • The trial must proceed on a day-to-day basis to be concluded preferably within six months from the date of taking cognizance of the offence.
  • They may hasten to add that this direction shall apply even to pending cases.
  • The concerned District Court shall assign cases, as far as possible, to one jurisdictional court so as to ensure expeditious disposal thereof.

In a very famous Manoj-Babli honour killing case, in which the killing was ordered by a Khap panchayat, a religious caste- based council among Jats, Haryana. The accused included the relatives of Babli (grandfather, two cousins, maternal and paternal uncles, and her brother). And for the first time the following punishments were imposed upon the convicted persons:

  • The five perpetrators were sentenced to imprisonment.
  • The leader of the Khap panchayat was sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • The driver who was charged with abduction was ordered a seven-year sentence.

Reforms Suggested:

  • Khap panchayats should be dissolved, so that they lose their powers in the villages.
  • Applying the deterrent theory by instilling the fear of consequences of honour killing.
  • Educating people about the irrelevance of Gotra in the 21st century.
  • Spreading awareness about the illegality of the act and its orthodoxy especially in the rural areas of the country.
  • Enforcement of strict punishments by the government.
  • Providing police protection to all those, who have been given even a mere threat of murder.
  • Making people aware about the laws and their protection.


Summing up, Honor killing is a sign of weakness and there is nothing honorable in it. In my view point it is a barbarous and a shameful act prevalent in our society. It is a high time to educate the society about the irrelevance of this crime.  However, there are some limitations imposed by the courts but analyzing it from the perspective of our society, it is the orthodox belief which is provoking the family members in doing such a heinous crime. Cases such as these shows that more than half of the Indians still lead their lives within the strong crutches of caste system and even today youths do not have the power to make decisions about their own life.

Development has to be made from the very core or else it will be just a hollow wooden structure eaten inside by the termites that eventually comes crashing down.


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