Haryana mulls homes to protect runaway couples


Protection home in each district to provide ‘free’ stay for first 10 days

In a novel scheme to prevent honour killings, the Haryana Government has decided to house “runaway couples” in protection homes, one in each district, where their stay will be free of charge for the first 10 days.

Under intense pressure from the Supreme Court, where a PIL has questioned the Central and Haryana Governments’ efficiency to curb the increasing rate of honour-related crimes, an affidavit filed by Additional Director General of Haryana Police spoke of an ‘action plan to combat honour killings’, being implemented by the State Government.

Of the several steps provided in the Action Plan, the most interesting is the one relating to protection of the runaway couples. As soon as the police receive intimation about such couples facing threat to their lives and liberty, the police would be duty-bound to ensure their protection and refer them to ‘Protection Homes’ for temporary stay. Every district of the State will have such a protection home to tackle similar complaints.

The initial period of stay at these homes will be free, the affidavit filed by ADGP BS Sandhu said in the pending PIL filed by NGO Shakti Vahini. It further stated, “During the said period (10 days) the threat perception shall be reviewed by a Committee (comprising Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police and District Social Welfare officer).” In the event, the period of stay has to be extended, the committee will permit an additional period of stay for 10 days, for which a reasonable charge payable by the couple will be determined by the said committee.

The Action Plan prepared by the State Police makes the SP/DCP of the concerned district personally responsible for the safety and security of runaway couples, in cases where protection has been ordered by any court. On receipt of such a complaint from a couple, the police would record the statement of the girl to note her consent and age. If she was a major, she would not be handed to the custody of her parents but instead be referred to the Protection Homes. Neither the boy (husband) nor the girl (wife) would be assaulted and the police would “advise” the couple to get their marriages registered, the Action Plan stated.

While the State has claimed to have implemented all these steps, the entire action plan will be scrutinized by a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai on Monday when the PIL comes up for hearing. The petitioner NGO through its counsel Ravikant had alleged that due to lack of a concerted action by the police and state government, the lives of several young couples who marry from different gotras/caste is jeopardized. The petition made a spirited plea for introducing “preventive steps” as in cases reported till date, the police are seen to take “reactive measures” only.

The Centre, while responding to the PIL has put the onus on states since law and order is purely a state subject under the Constitution. But the Centre is seized of a proposal to amend the Indian Penal Code to provide honour killing as a separate offence.

In this event, the Court had desired to know from the state governments on the proactive methods to be taken to curb occurrence of such instances. Haryana, which had reported the highest prevalence of such crimes, compounded by the khap panchayats who give a legal cover to such killings, was particularly questioned over its readiness to tackle such crimes.