Maharashtra plans to bring law to encourage inter-caste, inter-religion marriages

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The Maharashtra government is planning to enact a law to encourage intercaste and inter-religion marriages and focus on giving protection to such couples, in the backdrop of instances of honour killing.

The couples – where spouses are from different religions or castes – have to face various problems, including social boycott and the threat of honour killing, state social justice minister Rajkumar Badole told PTI. “Hence, besides other aspects, the law will focus on what kind of protection can be given to the couples who are facing threat to their lives,” he said.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), Maharashtra ranks fourth in the list of honour killings in the country. The NCRB, in its report ‘Crime in India 2016 Statistics’, stated that out of a total 69 such cases reported to it that year, eight people were killed in the name of ‘honour killing’.

Another lacunae in the existing laws is that if one of the spouse is from a backward community and another from the general category, the child born to them is deprived of the benefits of reservations and other concessions (given to the backward classes), Badole said. “The government intends to provide to the children of such couples the benefits that one of their parents is already getting,” he said.

Apart from that, the government will provide special concessions such as fee waiver to the children born out of intercaste and inter-religion marriages, he said. “There are also instances where such couples face social boycott. They will be given protection,” he said. The minister said while there is already a Special Marriage Act (for inter-religious marriages), it has various lacunae that need to be addressed.

The state government will speak to law experts from the Muslim community to ensure that the proposed law does not interfere with the Sharia law, he said. There are various schemes that promote intercaste and inter-religion marriages but they are not properly implemented, he noted. “For instance, the Dr Ambedkar Foundation in Delhi gives Rs 2.5 lakh for intercaste and inter-religion marriages. Similarly, we are also considering to provide funds to such couples to start a new life,” he said.

A few days back, the minister held a review meeting of the committee constituted to frame the law and asked it to prepare the draft in the next two-three months. The inter-state marriage law committee chairman, C S Thul, said letters have been sent to all district superintendents of police to seek information about the number complaints pertaining to problems faced by inter-caste couples. “Protection needs to be given to such couples to encourage more people (for intercaste and inter-religion marriages) in future,” Thul said.

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