The existing Legislation aims at prohibiting Witch-hunting and other similar practices thereto helping in tackling the evil consequences and in curbing crimes. The penal provisions of the proposed Legislation includes Witch hunting, branding a woman as Witch and other similar practices causing harm or injury to any person and who performs any practice as Witch doctor. Penal provision has also been included for repeated offence. The penal provisions of the above Legislation also provide that every offence under it shall be cognizable and non-bailable. It is also included 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. Resultantly, the Proposed Legislation shall help in achieving security and dignity of Women of State.
- Definition of Witch-hunting: The Act defines that Witch- hunting means any act of omission, commission or conduct on the part of any person, (i) identifying, accusing or defaming a woman as a witch, or (ii) harassing, harming or injuring such woman whether mentally or physically or damaging her property.
- Prohibition of witch-hunting and practising witch craft: No person shall commit witch-hunting or exercise or practise witch craft with intent to cause harm or injury to another person.
- Penalty for witch hunting: Witch branding is derogatory to human dignity. Committing witch hunting, or abetting, or provoking for witch hunting is punishable with imprisonment for a term that may be extended to 3 years or with fine but it is not less than Rs. 1,000/- or with both. Forcing 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 committing any similar acts that is derogatory to human dignity or displaced from her house, is punishable with imprisonment for a term that is not less than 1 year but that may be extend to 5 years and with fine.
- Penalty for witchdoctor: Practising witch craft or other similar practices with intent to cause harm or injury to any person is punishable with imprisonment for a term that is not less than 1 year but that may extend to 3 years or with fine that is not less than Rs. 5000/- or with both.
- Enhancement of the punishment: The existing legislation includes penalty for repeated offenders. A person who has already been convicted of an offence punishable under this Act, is convicted for the second offence or any offence subsequent to second offence, is punishable with imprisonment for a term that is not less than 3 years but that may be extended to 7 years and with fine that is not less than Rs. 10,000/-.
- Act not in derogation of any other law: The provisions that the Act includes is in addition to the existing laws and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law.
- Order for compensation: The amount of fine would be fixed by the court taking in to consideration of the physical and mental damages caused to the victims due to witch branding. This damage includes the cost of treatment and damages of property of the victim. The fine would be recovered from the offender by the court and either partial or full amount of the recovered penalty would be provided to the victim as compensation.
- Offence to be cognizable and non-bailable: All kind of offences related to witch hunting has been included under this Act as cognizable and non-bailable.
- Preventive action to be taken by the State Government: The Act includes the provision for the State Government to develop schemes for creating awareness on blind belief and educating people about the bizarre concept of witch craft and related practices.
(Source: ‘Witch Branding in Odisha: Violation of Women’s Rights’, a compilation of Case Studies by ActionAid, Odisha.)
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