Punishing someone for falling in love is a serious crime, observed the Supreme Court on Tuesday while hearing arguments over grant of bail to 11 persons, who formed part of a khap panchayat that ordered hanging of three youths, including a girl and a boy who fell in love and wanted to make a life together.

The incident occurred in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh in March 1991 and in all, 33 persons were sentenced to serve life term for the gruesome crime by the Allahabad high court in May 2016.

Both the girl and the boy belonged to the Jatav community, a scheduled caste, while the khap panchayat consisted mainly of members of the Jat community.

The girl eloped with the boy she loved and with another youth who helped them. When summoned by the khap panchayat, the young girl said she would like to continue living with the boy, enraging the elders, who then forced the parents of the three children to hang them. Both the boys were beaten and tortured and their private parts were burnt before hanging them.

Commenting on the facts of the case, the apex bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said, “The offences are serious that can disrupt society. You cannot punish someone for falling in love. This is a worse form of crime.”

Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain who appeared for the state informed the Court that out of 11 applicants, only two persons had not completed 10 years of sentence. In their application for bail, some accused claimed they were of advanced age and there was a possibility of them contracting Covid-19 while inside jail.

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The bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said, “We want to know their mental and physical state of health and whether their release will rake-up the old incident or create trouble for others or themselves. Even if they are to be released, they have to be sent to another district.”

Considering all these aspects, the bench ordered the state to arrange for a probation officer to visit the jails of Agra and Mathura and interview the accused. The officer would submit a report to the top court in two weeks.

The incident occurred on March 27, 1991 in a village under Barsana police station at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. Based on the investigation by the police, 54 persons were charge-sheeted. Following the trial, 38 persons were convicted, of which eight were sentenced to death while 30 others were awarded life term.

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