Khap power must be curbed: Rajasthan SHRC

FP

Appalled at the comments and diktats of the khap panchayats, Rajasthan's State Human Rights Commission is mulling over sending a list of recommendations to the state government that could be implemented as a law to curb the powers of the khaps.

The Commission has been flooded with complaints against khap panchayats, particularly from western Rajasthan and Bharatpur, but in most cases has found itself helpless for want of strict legal provisions.

M K Devarajan, a member of the Commission, told The Indian Express, "In our day to day functioning we have found that the khap panchayats go scot free because the legal sections imposed on them are weak. This has emboldened them and their powers remain uncurbed. We are flooded with complaints on a daily basis particularly from areas where the khap panchayats are dominant, such as all of western Rajasthan and Bharatpur."

Over the last year, the Commission has seen a sharp increase in the number of such cases. Instances of couples being disrobed in public, murders and violence instigated by the khaps have come to light across Rajasthan.

"The khaps have no regard for law and have their own legal system. They impose heavy fines that are extremely difficult for the villagers to pay. In such cases the local administration has very little power to act," Devarajan said.

In case of fines, section 384 of IPC (punishment for extortion) is imposed on the khaps but that is considered to be a rather weak provision as threats by the khaps have to be established. Similarly when the khaps are found guilty of instigating violence, sections 107 and 151 CrPc are imposed but that are not foolproof, the Commission has observed.

Though the Commission has not discussed the issue with the state government yet, it plans to make a case for amendments in the existing law to address the unreasonable diktats of the khap panchayats. As a first step, the Commission is currently reviewing all the pending cases related to khaps handled by it. Thereafter it will hold internal meetings to see how far the existing law has provisions to address the general misconduct and will accordingly draft recommendations for a stringent Bill to curb them.

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