23 cases of caste killings for “honour” in Tamil Nadu, government tells Madras HC

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The bench comprising S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad said it was impossible to have special branch in all the police stations to deal with such cases. Photo: PTI FIle

The Tamil Nadu government on Monday (July 29) told the Madras high court that 23 caste killings based on “honour” were reported in the State.

The court, acting on its own, based on various media reports of caste killings in Tamil Nadu, had on July 9, directed the Tamil Nadu government to explain within ten days the steps taken to implement a Supreme Court order that dealt with measures to prevent caste-based “honour” killings.

A division bench, comprising Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad sought a report from Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and Director General of Police on the action taken to prevent such crimes. The report was filed in the court on Monday by Assistant Inspector General of Police (Law & Order) ET Samson on behalf of the Director General of Police JK Tripathy.

In its report, the Tamil Nadu government furnished details of 23 cases related to caste killings based on “honour”.

The report, however, did not mention any time line. According to the report, the first caste related killing was reported in 2003. But state government found no caste killings were reported between 2003 and 2010. Of the 23 cases, six were reported in 2013, four in 2014 and three in 2017, two in 2011 and 2015 and one in 2003, 2010, 2012, 2016, 2018 and 2019 each.

Taking note of the report, the HC bench observed that the number of cases listed by the government was far less than the ones reported in newspapers. However, E Manoharan, appearing on behalf of the state government said newspapers has reported incidents of caste violence but most of them didn’t necessarily end up in cases of deaths.

The report submitted in the court also declared that several punitive measures and departmental action were taken to curb the crime. The Tamil Nadu government also said that punitive action has been initiated against four erring police officers for acts of deliberate negligence while handling such cases.

It said, two police inspectors from Madurai and two from Dindigul have been punished for negligence by postponing their increment in 2016. It was also said that they have formed a special branch to deal with such cases in each police station across the state.

However, the high court expressed its reservations over state government’s claims of taking measures to prevent caste killings. The bench comprising S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad said it was impossible to have special branch in all the police stations to deal with such cases.

Reacting to the case, A Kathir, founder, Evidence, a human rights organisation focusing on rights of Dalits and Tribals said the state government has downplaying the number of cases. “There have been as many as 192 cases of “honour” killings in Tamil Nadu between March 2014 and July 2019. However, it is good that the Tamil Nadu government has accepted that caste-killing happen in Tamil Nadu. At least now, they should come out with a separate legislation to curb such crimes,” he said.

Interestingly, in 2015, Tamil Nadu’s deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam denied incidents of “honour” killing during a debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor’s address in the Assembly. He said, “There is no incidence of “honour” killing but only suicide or suspicious deaths involving the inter-caste couples. There is no need to enact a new legislation to curb such killings.”