Chennai: Decrying the practice of honour killings and fake police encounters, a Supreme Court Judge has said convicts in such brutal executions should be awarded death sentence.

Referring to honour killings prevalent in regions like western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan, Justice Markandey Katju in a lecture here last evening said such acts were encouraged by caste panchayats.

"These honour killings were done or encouraged by these caste panchayats". As these panchayats form the vote banks for those in power "they do not want to disturb their vote bank," he said.

He said the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police "should be placed under suspension" if there were cases of honour killings in their respective districts.

"The maximum one can do if your girl is marrying someone against your will is severe social relations with her and nothing more," Katju said.

Justice Katju said policemen behind fake encounters should also be handed down death sentence since they are supposed "to protect the public and not murder them."

"This is violation of Article 21 of the Constitution which says that no one will be deprived of his life and liberty except when the procedure is instructed by law," Justice Katju said.

Referring to the defence of policemen that they only follow the orders of their superiors, he said, "Supposing a policeman is told to commit rape or commit dacoity by the Superintendent of Police, should he follow that order? You have to uphold the law."

"If you want to punish somebody, criminal or whatever, you have to charge him in the court of law, you have to follow the procedure, hold a trial, give him an opportunity to defend himself and then he can be punished," he said.

Justice Katju as part of a bench of the Supreme Court has recently held that fake encounter killings should be considered rarest of rare case and police personnel involved in such incidents be awarded death sentence and hanged.

He had also been part of a bench that last year held that capital punishment must be awarded to those convicted of honour killings.