Odisha Legislative Assembly passes the relevant bill

The State Legislative Assembly on Thursday passed The Odisha Prevention of Witch-hunting Bill 2013 which prohibits all forms witch-hunting and other similar practices.

After a marathon debate, legislators emphasised on the need for such legislation and gave approval to the bill. The penal provisions of the proposed legislation also provide that every offence under it will be cognizable and non-bailable.

Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kalpataru Das on behalf of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik moved the bill in the afternoon. As per objective of the bill, “there are complaints and reports expressing grave concern over growing and frequent murders of women branded as witch and other persons practising similar act. The age-old superstition of witch-hunting and other similar practices prevalent in the society are curse to society and humanity.”

“At present, there is no penal provision in law to prohibit or punish the accused of witch-hunting and other similar practices. The proposed legislation aims at prohibiting witch-hunting and other similar practices thereto helping in tackling the evil consequences and in curbing crimes,” it states.

The bill says person who would commits witch-hunting, abets or provokes it could face imprisonment up to three years and a fine of Rs. 1,000. Whoever forces any woman, branding her as witch, to drink or eat any inedible substance or any other obnoxious substance or parade her with painted face or body or commits any similar acts which is derogatory to human dignity or displaced from her house, will punishable with imprisonment for a term which will not less than one year, but may extend to five years and with fine.

Penal provisions

The bill also proposes penal provisions for witch-craft and witch-doctor. It is also proposed that the State government may make one or more schemes to conduct awareness programme on superstitions and other related matters as it may deem proper.

Odisha has been witnessing over 30 murders every year on account of witch-hunting and black magic related crimes. Last year, 39 murders were committed concerning to witch-hunting activities. In 2011, 39 murders were reported from various parts of the State.

In 2010, the number of killings was 31. Superstitious practices are mainly prevalent in tribal-dominated districts such as Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh and Keonjhar and coastal districts of Ganjam.

Human rights activist Sashiprava Bindhani, who had filed PIL in Orissa High Court seeking government intervention to end this social malady, said these superstitious practices prevailed largely due to lack of access to health, justice, education and employment.

  • Non-bailable cases to be registered against those indulge in such practices

  • Awareness campaign to be taken up all over the State