Assam Government tables Bill against ‘magic healing’

A Christian organisation had criticised Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for equating healing with proselytisation

Updated - February 21, 2024 04:58 pm IST

Published - February 21, 2024 04:15 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma walks with other BJP Chief Ministers. Many Christian organisations have called out the Bill, claiming it violates their constitutional rights.

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma walks with other BJP Chief Ministers. Many Christian organisations have called out the Bill, claiming it violates their constitutional rights. | Photo Credit: ANI

GUWAHATI

The Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024, was tabled in the 126-member State Assembly on Wednesday.

The Bill was introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pijush Hazarika on behalf of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who had earlier said it was needed to ban magical healing practices with the explicit goal of curbing evangelism.

The proposed legislation seeks to promote social awakening and foster a safe, science-based environment to protect public health against harmful practices based on ignorance and ill health apart from eliminating “non-scientific healing practices used with malicious intent to exploit innocent individuals”.

According to Section 3 of the Bill, the government is empowered to ban evil or magical healing practices for treating certain diseases and health disorders. Section 4 allows the government to prohibit misleading advertisements for such practices.

The bill includes several key sections for curbing “inhuman, evil, or magical healing” practices. Section 5 empowers the government to punish any act or promotion of such practices while Section 6 extends this to include imprisonment for a year, extendable up to three years, or a fine of ₹50,000, or both.

For repeated offences, the convicted could face up to five years in jail or a fine of ₹1 lakh, or both.

Section 9 of the Bill empowers the government to appoint police officers as vigilance officers to handle such cases. Section 16 further empowers the government to frame rules to implement the provisions of the Bill.

Days after the State Cabinet resolved to have a Bill against magical healing introduced, the Assam Christian Forum slammed the Chief Minister for his “misguided and misleading” statement equating magical healing with proselytisation.

“Healing, in our context, is not synonymous with proselytisation. It is a compassionate response to human suffering, irrespective of religious affiliations,” the forum said, insisting that labelling prayer as magical healing oversimplifies the profound spiritual dimensions of faith and life.

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