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Where Does India Stand On Anti-Superstition And Black Magic Legislations?

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Salient features of Indian Society; Women empowerment

 

Source: The Hindu, Outlook India

Context:  In the aftermath of the alleged human sacrifice of two women in Kerala, the ruling CPI (M) in the state has stressed the need for new legislation to curb such superstitious practices.

 

Prevalence of superstitious killings in India:

  • NCRB Data: According to NCRB data for 2021, six deaths were linked to human sacrifices, while witchcraft was the motive for 68 killings.
    • In 2020, India saw 88 deaths due to witchcraft and 11 died as part of ‘human sacrifices.
  • Maximum prevalence: Chhattisgarh (20), followed by Madhya Pradesh (18) and Telangana (11) recorded the maximum number of witchcraft cases.

 

Legal provisions against superstitions in India:

  • There are no nationwide legislations to deal with superstitious practices, black magic, or human sacrifice, in particular, certain sections of the Indian Penal Code enlist penalties applicable for such incidents.
  • IPC: Section 302 (punishment for murder) takes cognisance of human sacrifice, but only after the murder is committed.
    • Likewise, Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) works to discourage such practices.
  • Article 51A (h) of the Indian Constitution makes it a fundamental duty for Indian citizens to develop a scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
  • Drugs and Magic Remedies Act of 1954 also aims to tackle the debilitating impact of various superstitious activities prevalent in India.

 

State-specific laws:

  • Bihar: The Prevention of Witch Practices Act 1999 of Bihar was amongst the first in India to address witchcraft and inhumane rituals.
    • A similar law was passed in Jharkhand in 2001 the Prevention of Witch (Daain) Practices Act.
  • Maharastra: 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 in the legislation specifically deals with claims made by ‘godmen’ who say they have supernatural powers.
  • Karnataka: too effected a controversial anti-superstition law in 2017 known as the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act, which comprehensively counters “inhumane” practices linked to religious rituals.

 

Judicial precedence:

  • In 2019, a district court in Chandigarh sentenced a man to life imprisonment till his natural death for brutally slitting the throat of a four-year-old girl in the name of human sacrifice.

 

Need for a country-wide Anti-superstition/ Black Magic Act:

  • Violates fundamental rights: Allowing the unhindered continuance of such practices violates an individual’s fundamental right to equality and right to life under Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution respectively.
  • Negative effects on public order and health of citizens: In the absence of measures to tackle superstitions, unscientific and irrational practices such as faith healing, quackery, and misinformation regarding medical procedures can also balloon up, which can have severe detrimental effects on public order and health of citizens.

 

Reasons for such practices:

  • Superstitious cultural beliefs and religious practices
  • Unscientific practices such as quackery and faith healing
  • Patriarchal norms
  • Disputes: Attempts to take land and property or when women refuse sexual advances.

 

Conclusion:

Bringing legislation to deal with this social issue shall only mean half the battle won, wherein meaningful reform will need to increase awareness among the masses through information campaigns, and by roping in community/religious leaders to debunk the myths surrounding such practices. Bringin in the community leaders to make people aware.

 

Insta Links

Prelims link

  • Article 51
  • Fundamental rights
  • Seventh Schedule

 

Mains Links:

Q.Critically analyse the causes and consequences of the continuing practice of superstitions in India. (10M)