Two Law Commission Notes on Khap and Dowry Cases

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Report on Khap Panchayats The Law Commission has drafted a consultation paper on caste panchayats.    A draft legislation titled “The Prohibition of Unlawful Assembly (Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances) Bill, 2011” has been attached to the consultation paper. The Bill prohibits people from congregating together to condemn a legal marriage on the ground that the said marriage has brought dishonour to the caste or community.     Every member of such a group shall be punished with imprisonment of a minimum term of 6 months and a maximum term of 1 year.   The member may also be liable to a fine of up to Rs 10,000. Under our criminal justice system, the presumption is that the accused person is innocent until proven guilty.   This Bill reverses this presumption.   It provides that if an accused person participated in an unlawful assembly, then it will be presumed that the accused intended to commit an offence under the Bill. The Commission has invited public comments on the consultation paper within 4 weeks.   The comments can be sent by post or email to lci-dla@nic.in.    A copy of the consultation paper is available at http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/cp-Honour%20Killing.pdf. Report on compounding of offences including Sec 498A of IPC (harassment for dowry) The Law Commission has also submitted its report on ‘Compounding of (IPC) Offences.    Compoundable offences are offences which allow the parties to enter into a private compromise.   The Supreme Court in some recent cases had asked the Law Commission to identify more offences which could be treated as compoundable.

  Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure lists the offences which are compoundable.  Currently under the section there are 56 compoundable offences.   Certain offences can be compounded only with the prior permission of the court. The Commission has recommended that Section 498A of the IPC (cruelty against a married woman by her husband or relatives) should be made compoundable with the permission of the Court.   It has recommended that the magistrate should give a hearing to the woman and then permit or refuse the compounding of the offence.  This has been recommended to ensure that woman is not coerced into compounding the offence. The other IPC offences that the Commission has recommended should be made compoundable include (a) Section 324 (simple hurt); (b) Section 147 (rioting); (c) Section 380 (theft in dwelling house); (d) Section 384 (extortion) and  (e) Section 385 (extortion by threat  to person). A copy of the report is available at http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report237.pdf