French philosopher and thinker Simone Weil has said: “Liberty, taking the word in its concrete sense consists in the ability to choose.” 

In a latest judgement of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, 2018(5) SCALE 51, it has been observed by a Bench of three-Judges that

41. What we have stated hereinabove, to explicate, is that the consent of the family or the community or the clan is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into a wedlock. Their consent has to be piously given primacy. If there is offence committed by one because of some penal law, that has to be decided as per law which is called determination of criminality. It does not recognize any space for informal institutions for delivery of justice. It is so since a polity governed by `Rule of Law’ only accepts determination of rights and violation thereof by the formal institutions set up for dealing with such situations. It has to be constantly borne in mind that rule of law as a concept is meant to have order in a society. It respects human rights. Therefore, the Khap Panchayat or any Panchayat of any nomenclature cannot create a dent in exercise of the said right.

42. In this regard, we may fruitfully reproduce a passage from Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, 1994(2) R.C.R.(Criminal) 168 : (1994) 3 SCC 569 wherein C.G. Weeramantry in `The Law in Crisis – Bridges of Understanding’ emphasizing the importance of rule of law in achieving social interest has stated:- “The protections the citizens enjoy under the Rule of Law are the quintessence of twenty centuries of human struggle. It is not commonly realised how easily these may be lost. There is no known method of retaining them but eternal vigilance. There is no known authority to which this duty can be delegated but the community itself. There is no known means of stimulating this vigilance but education of the community towards an enlightened interest in its legal system, its achievements and its problems.”

Honour killing guillotines individual liberty, freedom of choice and one’s own perception of choice. It has to be sublimely borne in mind that when two adults consensually choose each other as life partners, it is a manifestation of their choice which is recognized under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution. Such a right has the sanction of the constitutional law and once that is recognized, the said right needs to be protected and it cannot succumb to the conception of class honour or group thinking which is conceived of on some notion that remotely does not have any legitimacy.

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44. The choice of an individual is an inextricable part of dignity, for dignity cannot be thought of where there is erosion of choice. True it is, the same is bound by the principle of constitutional limitation but in the absence of such limitation, none, we mean, no one shall be permitted to interfere in the fructification of the said choice. If the right to express one’s own choice is obstructed, it would be extremely difficult to think of dignity in its sanctified completeness. When two adults marry out of their volition, they choose their path; they consummate their relationship; they feel that it is their goal and they have the right to do so. And it can unequivocally be stated that they have the right and any infringement of the said right is a constitutional violation. The majority in the name of class or elevated honour of clan cannot call for their presence or force their appearance as if they are the monarchs of some indescribable era who have the power, authority and final say to impose any sentence and determine the execution of the same in the way they desire possibly harbouring the notion that they are a law unto themselves or they are the ancestors of Caesar or, for that matter, Louis the XIV. The Constitution and the laws of this country do not countenance such an act and, in fact, the whole activity is illegal and punishable as offence under the criminal law.”

It is clear from the above-said paragraphs of judgment by Hon’ble Supreme Court that two consenting adults have right to choose their partner and this right is a part of their fundamental right provided under Indian Constitution. Since right to choose is a part of Article 19 and 21 of Indian Constitution therefore, State / Police authorities are liable to protect this right and also, this right can be protected as well as enforced through the orders of Courts.


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