The Supreme Court on Monday stepped in to seek responses from the Centre and eight different state governments on a petition claiming that authorities have “failed miserably” and continue to remain mute spectators to the “mass frenzy” called honour killings committed against young couples and women.

A vacation bench of Justices R M Lodha and A K Patnaik issued notices to the Union of India and the ministries of Home Affairs and Women and Child Development.

The chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar have been directed to likewise respond after they were allegedly found to show a high propensity to honour crimes.

Monday’s action follows a petition by NGO Shakti Vahini represented by advocate Ravi Kant, which moved the apex court after an extensive survey of the regions under the aegis of the National Commission for Women.

Even as “intense fear among the victims to take on the feudalistic forces has prevented the victims from coming out in open litigation”, the NGO pointed out that states had turned a blind eye to the fundamental rights of women and young couples to live in dignity without fear for their lives.

The litigation expects the Supreme Court to direct the government to take preventive steps to “combat” honour killings — a result of “mass fury” — and also play a pivotal role in pushing the governments to draft both a National Policy of Action and corresponding one at the state level to further deter such incidents.

Thirdly, the litigation would aim to exclusively create special cells at every district for honour victims for their safety and protection.

“So called ‘honour-based’ violence occurs in communities where the concepts of honour and shame are fundamentally bound up with the expected behaviour of families and individuals, particularly those of women,” the petition explains.

“The most extreme form is ‘honour’ killing, but in other circumstances, the victim can be subjected to long-term low level physical abuse and bullying as a punishment for ‘bringing dishonour on the family’,” it adds.