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India high court supports death penalty for honor killings

The Supreme Court of India [official website] on Monday expressed its support for death penalties for "honor killing" convictions in a ruling [text, PDF] upholding the life sentence for a man convicted of an honor killing. The court affirmed Bhagwan Dass's conviction on the charges of killing his daughter who had walked out of her marriage and began an affair with her cousin. The ruling by Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Misra advocated classifying honor killings as crimes that come within "the rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment." The court characterized the practice as barbaric and feudal and a slur on the nation. The court advocated for the death penalty as a deterrent and advised that the "gallows" await for those who plan on committing honor killings.

Although lower courts have given death sentences in honor killing cases, the Supreme Court had yet to weigh in on death penalties for honor killings. In April, the Supreme Court urged an end to honor killings [JURIST report] and called the custom wholly illegal. Last June, the Supreme Court ordered the central government and seven state governments to explain the steps they have taken to reduce honor killings [JURIST report]. The order came in response to a petition filed by Shakti Vahini [advocacy website], a non-governmental human rights organization seeking the implementation of stricter laws against the perpetrators of honor killings.

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