The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it is “absolutely illegal” for khap panchayats to interfere or end marriages between two consenting adults, IANS reported. The top court was hearing a 2010 petition filed by the NGO Shakti Vahini, which asked for a ban on khap panchayats or self-appointed village councils.

The three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also laid down punitive measures to be followed till a legislation is in place, according to Mint.

In earlier hearings of the case, the court has repeatedly taken a strong stance against village councils interfering with inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. The bench condemned khap panchayats for inciting violence and said it was illegal for them to behave like “conscience keepers of society”. The court had also directed the government to do more to curb honour killings.

While Tuesday’s detailed judgement is yet to be released, the bench had earlier pulled up the village councils for interfering in marriages.

On March 7, it reserved its judgement in the case when the Centre told the court that all states will set up special units to protect couples who marry outside their castes.

When the counsel for the khap panchayats had said during that hearing that in most cases of honour killings, the families of the couples were responsible, the bench of Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwilkar had said, “We are not interested.”

The Khap panchayats had also argued that they had encouraged inter-caste and inter-faith marriages but were against marriages among “sapinda” relationships, or close blood relatives among Hindus.

The court had also warned that it would step in if the Centre failed to take strong steps to stop interference by the village councils.