Honor Killing in India: A Socio-Legal Study

This article is written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.


This article highlights the sensitive issue of Honor Killing in India. Honor killing in India is considered a crime. The origin or root of this issue has been since ancient times in the Indian Country. This issue highlights the injustice inflicted upon women and is a drawback to the highly esteemed Indian culture. This is an issue of serious concern in many states even though laws and regulations are in place to curb its continuance.

Mainly and mostly women are the target and in many recent situations, men are also a target of this honor killing ritual. The article highlights the negative effects and the various situations and remedies and regulations that occurred over the ages to stop this grievous act.


Marriage, caste, traditions, pre-marital affairs, customs are pre-dominant and sensitive issues in India. Honor killing is defined as the death given or imposed upon women or men by their family or relatives as a punishment for not obeying the customs, traditions, or any other issues such as having affairs, marrying a person from other castes, etc.

Honor Killing in India

Some issues also range from losing virginity before marriage or even not adhering to the community rules or choosing a particular occupation. Honor killing is considered a tradition in many parts of India and is considered a way of punishing and correcting the mistakes of people. Honor killing is usually conducted when the family feels that the person has disgraced their family. This honor killing is a stigma to society and the country and has been protested against many times.


The system of Honor Killing in India has its origin since ancient times. In ancient times, the honor of the family was dependent on the women’s marital status, on how much she obeyed the traditions, and also her virginity. The man was supposed to perform the duty of protecting the family’s honor by killing any female who was involved in any inappropriate activity or sexual behavior.

Over the ages the reasons for conducting Honor Killing in India have evolved or as you can say changed. The reasons for committing honor killing are broadened to various situations such as pre-marital sex, marriage out of caste, flirting, marital infidelity, failing to clean house, serving guests, failing to become pregnant, and many more.

Even though the world is changing at a fast pace, there is still honor killing committed in many parts of India, and not known to many, it is widely prevalent in many communities and states.

Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh witnessed prominent cases of honor killing. Maharashtra, Gujarat South India also witness cases on some levels. In the olden times as well as in the present, these honor killings are ordered by the decision of the Khap panchayat who give decisions based on the issue and give the consent to kill the people for the pride and safety of the community.


There are various heinous and extreme cases of honor killing in India. One such case is the Manoj-Babli honor killing case. The Manoj-Babli honor killing case revolves around newlyweds Manoj and Babli who were killed by Babli’s relatives. These included her grandfather, brother, and maternal and paternal uncles.

The killing was ordered by the Khap panchayat whose head was Babli’s grandfather.

The couple even though belonging to different families, was distant cousins. The marriage of cousins was considered a shame in their community and hence the marriage was not approved off. However, Manoj’s family defended them and let the couple marry. The couple married against Babli’s family’s wish. Due to this, the panchayat ordered the killing of the couple and they were killed.

The case was taken over by public prosecutor Sunil Rana and lawyers Lal Bahadur, Surat Singh, and Rakesh Manju. In defense was lawyer Jagmal Singh who defended that there was no evidence about the planning of killing. The family still persuaded the case in court and a historic decision was made by the court for the first time concerning Honor Killing in India after 33 months and 50 hearings on 29 March 2010.

The court ordered the execution of the accused and they were sentenced to death. Others who were a part of the panchayat and supported the decision were ordered life imprisonment.

The case was the first case concerning Khap panchayats and the first capital punishment in the case of Honor Killing in India. It was a landmark judgment and brought about many changes in the future provisions relating to human rights. To date, this case has only caught attention in a wider sense in India with many cases still prevailing and needing attention to be resolved and given justice for.


The Indian Penal Code, 1860 contains provisions for Honor Killing in India. This range from Sec 300, 307, 120A, and many more. Constitutional provisions are introduced which give a place to act against honor killings in India. These are Articles 14, 15,17,18,19 and 21 which brief about the rights enjoyed by an individual for his betterment. These rights and provisions are used to defend cases of honor killing and provide justice to people.


There are various reasons for Honor Killing in India. The predominant reason for this is the patriarchal mindset. Honor killing is committed to protecting the honor of the family and caste in most cases. This is directly connected with shame. The main focus is observed on the behavior of women and their decisions.

Men are made to observe women who try to defend themselves or try to change particular thinking. Men, who cannot protect or observe the women properly or do not give the decision of honor killing are also targeted. This reason cannot be changed unless people become open-minded and see beyond their customs to determine right and wrong.

Caste System and issues related to it have always been dominant in India. India is a country with a variety of caste and religions. This caste system has proved to be a curse rather than a boon for our country. Inter-caste marriages are looked down upon and opposed to the point of the murder of entire families.

In India, still there are daily cases of interfaith marriages and their disasters. If a couple marries against the wishes of the family, they are tortured or even killed in extreme cases.

There are also many issues revolving around honor killing being the lack of education and not accepting change. People are not ready to change according to the changing world. They think changing will harm their customs and values which will lead to the end of the family. Many ideologies of the modern world are shunned by these people and they go to extremes to let their family members not accept modern ideologies.


There are a few provisions and regulations implemented by the country against this crime. However, no specific and strict laws are provided against it. Preventive measures were given by the Supreme Court and their preaching is done among the villages and areas where cases of honor killing are still reported. However, there seems no particular improvement in the situation. The government must come up with strict provisions against people who still believe in such backward thinking.

The people or relatives who believe in honor killing and its principles cannot be changed by the law but the modern generation should help to make them understand the negative effects of this act. Law cannot teach every person about the negativity revolving around such customs. Initiatives at the primary level need to be taken more prominently. Meetings should be held to help people understand how these customs affect the country and its prosperity.

Awareness must be increased to understand the feelings and demands of the people against whom such crimes were committed or are being planned to be committed. Collective effort will only help reduce this stigma in society.


Honor killing even though used as a weapon to punish people who supposedly bring “shame” on the family or society is itself a “shame”. Honor Killing in India is a custom that has claimed the lives of numerous people in the past and continues to claim many lives. It is a crime that needs to be eradicated and prevented. Numerous lives of women and men have been claimed due to this social stigma. India is a country with diverse religions and cultures.

It is famous for its richness in culture and is the only country where all religions live in peace and harmony.

Many countries derive influence and motivation from this practice. A crime such as honor killing hampers the multi-cultural richness of our country. It has humiliated us as a country. Even though there are preventive measures in place, this crime needs to be properly adjudicated or might lead to the death of many innocent lives. It is time to be modern with the richness of our culture but this culture should not hamper our development and freedom.


1) Aditi Prabhune, A socio-legal study on Honor Killing in India, https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-2425-a-socio-legal-study-on-honour-killing-as-a-crime-in-india.html

2) Wikipedia, Manoj-Babli honor killing case, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manoj%E2%80%93Babli_honour_killing_case

3) Wikipedia, Honor Killing in India, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_killing