India's Supreme Court instructed judges in the lower criminal courts to award the death sentence in cases of so-called honor killings, India's Hindu newspaper reported.

Recently married couple Ravinder Singh Gehlout and his wife, Shilpa, pose for photographs as an armed police officer keeps guard at the residence of an extended family member in the outskirts of New Delhi on August 26, 2009. The couple, who hail from different castes, were assigned protection to prevent their families from harming them. (TENGKU BAHAR - AFP/Getty Images).

According to the paper, a Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha said: “In our opinion, honour killings, for whatever reason, come within the category of rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment. It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation. This is necessary as a deterrent for such outrageous, uncivilised behaviour. All persons who are planning to perpetrate ‘honour' killings should know that the gallows await them.”

There are fears that honor killings -- mostly used to stop intercaste or interreligious marriages -- are on the rise in India, as social changes make love affairs between young people of different social groups more commonplace.

In several instances in the past, too, the Supreme Court has called on the courts and law enforcement officials to protect the right of men and women to marry a spouse of their own choosing.

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