The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to file a status report on the steps taken to implement directions issued by it in April 2016 for establishing special cells in every district to protect couples in inter-faith or inter-caste marriages and consequently prevent honour killings.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy called for the report following a public interest litigation petition filed by Vidya Reddy, managing trustee of Tulir Charitable Trust. The litigant expressed concern over the delay in establishing such cells, with a 24-hour helpline, as directed by the court.
When State Government Pleader V. Jayaprakash Narayanan brought it to the notice of the court that a suo motu public interest litigation petition, too, was pending in the court on the same issue, the judges directed the Registry to club the cases. They also accepted a request to grant eight weeks to file the status report.
Earlier, advocate Deepika Murali, representing the litigant, said Justice V. Ramasubramanian, now a Supreme Court judge, had issued directions to the State government on the issue, during his stint as a judge of the Madras High Court in 2016. The directions included constitution of special cells.
The judge had made it clear that the district-level special cells must comprise the Superintendent of Police, the district social welfare officer and the district Adi-Dravidar welfare officer. He further ordered that the cells should operate a 24-hour helpline to receive complaints of harassment to the couples and provide necessary assistance.
Unlike the general practice of the police of counselling youngsters and forcing them to go with their parents, the judge specifically directed the police to counsel parents and provide temporary shelter to the couples. The State was also ordered to make available sufficient funds at the disposal of the special cells.
Despite such comprehensive orders, passed by the High Court as well as similar sentiments expressed by the Supreme Court in Sakti Vahini’s case in 2018, incidents of suspected “honour” killings were being reported across the State, the petitioner said. She was confident that such crimes could be curbed if court orders were implemented in letter and spirit.