New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on a plea alleging interference by khap panchayats in inter-caste and inter-faith marriages of adults.

Chief justice Dipak Misra said that in this context, the main question to be decided will be whether a third party can interfere if two adults decide to marry each other.

The court has repeatedly adopted a tough line against interference by khap panchayats in inter-caste and inter-faith marriages, and advised them against behaving like conscience keepers of society.

“If people decide to marry, they are adults and you are nobody to interfere," chief justice Misra had said in response to a plea seeking to ban khap panchayats and establish guidelines to check growing instances of honour killing taking place in the name of caste and religion.

Misra had said that under the law, when two people marry, no third party can interfere in an individual or collective capacity.

Khap panchayats, through their counsel, had said they had been encouraging inter-caste and inter-faith marriages and were not against such marriages. They were, however, wary of marriages among sapinda relationships or close blood relatives among Hindus. The counsel argued that khaps had been performing their duties as the conscience keepers of the society.

Threatening and attacking adults in inter-caste or inter-faith marriages in the name of being “conscience keepers of society is absolutely illegal", the court had observed in an earlier hearing.

On 16 January, it was declared illegal by the court for parents or khap panchayats to interfere in decisions of adult men and women of different castes to marry.

Justice Misra had said that a khap panchayat could not summon adults and question their choice of a marriage partner and warned that the court would step in if the centre failed to take steps to stop such interference.

Khaps are caste or community organizations in villages which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce punishments based on customs and traditions.

The court was hearing a 2010 petition by NGO Shakti Vahini against khap panchayats and seeking directions to the centre and state governments for preventing honour crimes.

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