Print edition : April 15, 2016

THE hearing of the writ petition that Shakti Vahini filed in the Supreme Court has brought to light some aspects that had so far remained hidden from the public. Mohammed Saleem Nagauri filed an application in the court in support of the writ petition in which he pointed out that Muslims too suffered from “honour” crimes. Nagauri’s family in the village of Basni, Nagaur, Rajasthan, and in Mumbai, where they worked for a livelihood, suffered because of alleged mental torture meted out by the illegal khap panchayat known as Nagauri Qaumi Jamat.

Nagauri had arranged his daughter’s marriage within the community but later changed his mind when he heard reports of the immoral character of the young man. When he found another young man for her, from outside the community in Mumbai, he sought permission from the Jammat, but it directed him to break the engagement and get his daughter married within the community. Just before marriage, Nagauri was banned for two years from the community and was warned that the wedding would be disrupted. On December 30, 2012, the day of the reception, Nagauri alleged that some members of the Jammat came and stood outside the marriage hall and took pictures and noted down the names of those who attended the wedding.

Submissions on behalf of khap panchayats were also made during the case. One was that medical science and genetics had evidence to suggest that inbreeding (marriage within the same gotra) resulted in and accentuated genetically transmitted diseases, while cross-breeding diminished these diseases effectively. Another was that a specific survey in Finland, Norway, Sweden and England had proved that marriage among sapindas, descendants of common parents/ancestors, had been dangerous to some communities.

“Modern genetic scientists” were cited to make the point that mixing of human genes could produce the most developed and strongest people without any diseases. On seeing the harm same-gotra marriages caused, many Western countries had banned marriages among near and dear ones, it was submitted. An amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, to debar marriages in the same gotra, mother’s gotra and within same and adjoining villages was proposed.

The Narendra Modi government has so far sought three adjournments in the matter, the last one on February 22 this year. The case is listed for hearing before the Supreme Court on July 11, when it is hoped that the court will begin hearing it on merits and issue suitable directions.

V. Venkatesan

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