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Monday, 7 September 2009

Khap panchayats seek legal claws: Taliban, Kangaroo Courts!

Khap panchayats seek legal claws: Taliban, Kangaroo Courts!
8 September 2009
NEW DELHI: Irked at being equated with the Taliban and kangaroo courts, khap panchayats in Haryana are now determined to get some legal sanction. Soon, they will draw up a set of recommendations for making "suitable" amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act (1955) at the state level so that their rulings become valid under law.

Khaps are traditional area-based community organizations whose rulings have no legal sanction. In keeping with tradition, khap panchayats oppose marriages within the same 'gotra' (lineage) and are known to have meted out harsh punishments to "erring" young couples.

At a two-day meeting in Rohtak that ended on Sunday, the Sarv Khap Panchayat, a conglomerate of various khaps, decided to set up a core committee to suggest amendments to the Act to disallow same-gotra and same-village marriages as per Jat tradition.

Lt Col (retd) Chander Singh Dalal, an advocate in Rohtak who organized the "seminar", said: "After elections, I plan to send the draft recommendations to each of the 90 MLAs and persuade them to bring a Bill in the assembly. I am sure it won't be opposed. Once the amendments are brought in, there'll be no place for dispute."

Justice (retd) Devi Singh Teotia, a former judge of the Punjab & Haryana HC, who actively participated in the Sarv Khap Panchayat, said: ‘‘Khap leaders are keepers of Jat tradition and they have lately been facing flak for it. If the amendments come through, there will be no more clashes between tradition and the law, and they (the khap leaders) won’t be maligned.’’

He said the amendments will be sought at the state level, so that they apply to any marriage taking place in Haryana. ‘‘One of the sections of the Hindu Marriage Act says that you can’t marry your brother or sister, unless custom permits. This exception clause was added for some south Indian customs where sibling marriages are allowed under extreme circumstances. “Since Jat custom doesn’t permit marriage within the same gotra and in the gotra of one’s parents, we can seek a similar clause.

Similarly, certain other sections need small alterations,’’ he said. The meeting, attended by more than 150 khap leaders besides intellectuals, doctors and social activists from the community, also debated ways to improve the khaps’ image in the media. Teotia said he suggested that a handful of educated people from the community should be nominated to assist khap leaders in taking decisions and help them in media management.

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