27-year-old Preeti (name changed) was not allowed to attend her father’s funeral by members of her community because she had married outside her caste
With boycott and ostracisation of couples for marrying outside their caste, religion or faith, besides ‘honour killings’, being reported from various parts of the country, a socio-legal group has taken it upon itself to draft a ‘law to protect persons who have married outside their caste or religion’. The first meeting of the group to discuss the issue was held in Pune on Tuesday.
“The consultation is aimed at providing protection not only to aggrieved couples, but also to those who have suffered because they supported inter-faith or inter-caste marriage,” said advocate Rama Sarode, secretary, Sahyog Trust that organised the meeting.
As per a preliminary draft prepared on the basis of discussion at the meeting, persons who promote or support any violence against such couples shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for seven years and imposed a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
Social activist Vidya Bal, who took part in the consultations, suggested that a helpline be set up for aggrieved couples and shelter homes be started especially for couples staying in rural areas. “The social justice department has a scheme of giving cash awards for those opting for inter-caste/ inter-religious marriage. When such couples are in trouble and face boycott from their communities, the government must undertake some measures for their relief,” said secretary of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Anwar Rajan.
A public interest litigation (PIL) had been filed in the Bombay High Court by three such aggrieved parties seeking to frame specific guidelines in such cases.
A High Court bench of justices Mridula Bhatkar and S A Bobde dismissed the PIL in June this year stating that “these (prayers) are in the domain of the Legislature and society itself and it would not be proper to issue any direction in this regard.”
“We felt the need to have an independent law that would be inclusive of dowry death and sex-selection, which are also marriage-related issues. The draft will be finalised after four to five more sessions of consultation and sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice,” Sarode said.