It has taken three long years, but the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015, has now got the President’s assent, converting it to an Act.
President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill on June 13, making any offence under the Act non-bailable, cognizable and non-compoundable, according to information on the official website of the president’s secretariat.
The Act, aimed at eliminating the superstition from the society, imposes a punishment of up to seven years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
The practice of witch hunting in Assam
Branding people, mostly women, as witches and killing them is a very old problem across Assam.
Between 2001 and 2017, 193 people -- 114 women and 79 men—were branded as a witch and killed and 202 cases registered by the police during this period, Additional Director General of Police (CID) Anil Kumar Jha said.
Tackling the witch hunting menace
To tackle this menace, the Assam Assembly on August 13, 2015, had unanimously passed a Bill, which imposes imprisonment of up to seven years, along with a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh, for branding someone as a witch. This Bill has now become an Act.
“This is a positive step for the society to tackle the witch-hunting menace. If all stakeholders work together, we will be able to control the problem, based on superstition, to a large extent,” Jha said.
The Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act
The Act would be imposed, along with Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), if someone is killed after being branded as a witch.
The punishment for leading a person to commit suicide after intimidating, stigmatising, defaming and accusing her as a witch, may be extended to life imprisonment, along with Rs 5 lakh fine.
The Act also talks about various measures that the administration and police should initiate, along with NGOs and civil society, to educate people about witch-hunting.
It also entails that the fine realised as punishment for an offence shall be paid to the victim or his/her next of kin as compensation.