What is India’s position on anti-superstition laws and black magic?

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Following the alleged human sacrifice of two women in Kerala, the state’s ruling CPI(M) has stressed the need for new legislation to combat such superstitious practices and urged strict enforcement of existing laws to this regard.

The ‘witchcraft killing’ which took place in Elanthoor, Pathanamthitta district, underscored the seriousness of the superstitious beliefs existing in the state and the need for a tough fight against the menace, said the Left Party’s State Secretariat in a statement. Wednesday.

Does India’s current legislative framework speak of human sacrifice?

Although there is currently no national legislation to deal with superstitious practices, black magic or human sacrifice in particular, some sections of the Indian Penal Code provide penalties applicable to such incidents.

Article 302 (punishment for murder) takes cognizance of human sacrifice, but only after the murder has been committed. Similarly, Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) is intended to discourage such practices.

Furthermore, Article 51A(h) of the Constitution of India makes it the fundamental duty of Indian citizens to develop scientific temperament, humanism and the spirit of research and reform.

Other provisions of the Medicines and Magical Remedies Act 1954 also seek to combat the debilitating impact of various superstitious activities prevalent in India.

What do state-specific laws say?

The state of Bihar became the pioneer by enacting a law to combat superstitious practices in 1999. The Prevention of Witchcraft Practices Act was among the first in India to deal with witchcraft and inhuman rituals.

The state of Maharashtra followed in 2013 to enact the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, which banned the practice of human sacrifice in the state. A section of the legislation specifically deals with claims made by “god-men” who say they have supernatural powers. Additionally, the law also allows the activities of so-called god-men to be restricted before they become too powerful to effectively combat the threat of exploitation in the name of religion.

Similarly, the state of Karnataka also enforced a controversial anti-superstition law in 2017 known as the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act, which comprehensively thwarts “inhumane” ritual-related practices. religious, including performing any inhumane act, evil practices and black magic in search of treasures, bounties, tantric acts including physical and sexual assault, creating an impression of “possession” and exorcism or assaulting people under the guise of exorcism, claiming healing power, forcing people to walk on fire, etc. Karnataka law also specifically lists the penalties for spreading false information and creating panic in the guise of ghosts or black magic.

Does the state of Kerala have similar legal provisions?

In the context of this nerve-wracking incident, Congress leader and opposition leader in the State Assembly, VD Satheesan had called on Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to introduce tough legislation to fight against the threatens superstitious beliefs and rituals in the state.

In 2014, a working draft of such a bill titled ‘The Superstition Exploitation (Prevention) Act of Kerala’ was prepared by the Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) A Hemachandran. However, the project remained in cold storage and Kerala failed to enact a comprehensive law against black magic.

According The Hinduthe Kerala Law Reform Commission formed another bill titled ‘Kerala Prevention of Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices, Sorcery and Black Magic Bill’ in 2019 which provided for a jail term of up to seven years for convicts and a fine of up to Rs 50,000 along with the penalties for offenses under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

However, these two bills did not see the light of day and were not introduced, discussed, or passed in the state legislature.

Are there any legal precedents in this regard?

In 2019, a Chandigarh district court sentenced a man to life imprisonment until his natural death for brutally slitting the throat of a four-year-old girl in the name of human sacrifice. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the accused and punished him under article 302 of the ICC, India time reported.

The judgment reads: “The appalling crime… in no way entitles the accused (Kamlesh) to any leniency. It can be punished by death or imprisonment for life, which is the rule, while the death penalty is an exception to which recourse must be had for particular reasons.

How deep are crimes related to superstitious activities?

The CPI(M) in its statement on Wednesday cited figures from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to point out that more than 73 murders linked to superstitious beliefs and practices were recorded in the country in 2021 alone, the estimates real being assumed to be much higher.

Moreover, in just two years after the legislation came into force, more than 150 cases have been registered under Maharashtra’s Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhumane, Evil and Aghori Practices and on black magic until 2015, YOU reported.

Moreover, these practices tend to notoriously target vulnerable sections of society in an unbalanced manner, including women, children and the poor. This was supported by activist and prominent academic Vidya Bal, who said in a comment to YOU, that it is usually “women and the poor who suffer most at the hands of those who use religion and rituals. It has been a long struggle to imbue rationality in people’s minds.

Was there any opposition to state interventions?

Efforts by the governments of Maharashtra and Karnataka to implement laws relating to black magic, superstitious activities and human sacrifice have been met with severe opposition from religious leaders and some communities in the state. In fact, the then opposition party in the United States, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) even accused governments of being “anti-Hindu” by restricting practices considered essential to religion. Such legislation has repeatedly been criticized as a threat to religious freedom by critics.

In fact, the role of the state in reducing these barbaric practices has historically seen resistance from some elements of communities practicing such rituals. For example, between 1837 and 1856, the Kandh tribes fought back against British efforts to end the Kandh practice of human sacrifice, known as mariah. The tribesmen in Ghumsar, Kalahandi and Patna regions fought a bloody battle against the colonial masters using tangis (a kind of battle axe, bows and arrows) and organized strong resistance to such intervention.

Why is there a need for a national law against superstition and black magic?

Allowing the unhindered continuation of such practices violates an individual’s fundamental right to equality and the right to life under Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution respectively. In the absence of measures to combat superstitions, unscientific and irrational practices such as faith healing, quackery and misinformation regarding medical procedures may also increase, which can have serious adverse effects on the public order and the health of citizens.

However, it is pertinent to remember that passing legislation to address this social problem will only be half the battle won, in which meaningful reform will have to educate the masses through information campaigns and calling on community/religious leaders to demystify the myths surrounding such practices.

(With PTI entries)

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