From isolating menstruating women to sorcery, Kerala draft bill to fight superstition

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From isolating menstruating women to sorcery, Kerala draft bill to fight superstition

The state of Kerala is mulling bringing in an anti-superstition law to counter inhuman practices performed under the name of black magic and sorcery. TNM has accessed anti-superstition bill drafted by the Kerala Law Reforms Commission to eradicate and penalise such practices and to promote social awareness in the society against ‘exploitative practices.’

Although there have been several discussions in the past two years that an anti-superstition bill be brought in for the state – Kerala Health Minister KK Shylaja too had voiced the need for such a bill – it was never passed as a law. However, with the state witnessing several incidents in the recent past where people have fallen prey to black magic and other anti-social practices, it has now been deemed necessary for the Government to take appropriate measures to prevent such practices.

The draft bill prohibits fraudulent and exploitative practices and puts in place a law to control and eradicate inhuman evil practices that are propagated in the name of “supernatural, magical powers or evil spirits” commonly known as black magic. The law also prescribes punishment for violations.

 The draft bill, which has been termed the “Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practice and Black Magic Bill, 2019,” has referred to Article 51 A(g) of the Constitution which proclaims it to be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.”

 The draft Bill states, “No person shall by himself or through any other person,  promote, propagate or practice or cause to promote, propagate or practice inhuman evil practices, black magic or sorcery.” 

The draft Bill adds that the offences will be cognizable and non-bailable and whoever commits any act in violation shall on conviction be punished with imprisonment of a minimum of one year and a maximum of seven years and be fined an amount ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000. 

In case of a death amounting out of such practices, the accused will be penalised under Section 300 of Indian Penal Code (murder) and shall on conviction be punished accordingly.

The draft Bill also states that the state government may undertake programs to spread awareness in the society about the ill-effects of inhuman evil practices, black magic or sorcery and will provide proper counselling and medical relief to the injured victims, if any.

The Bill, however, adds that it will not be applicable to forms of worship and religious rituals performed at any religious or spiritual places or homes (as long as it does not cause physical harm) and the miracles of the deceased saints, their publicity and circulation and distribution of the literature about the miracles of religious preachers. The law will also not be applicable to any advice related to Vastu Sastra (the traditional Hindu system of architecture), or advice by astrologers, unless such advice results in cheating, defrauding or exploiting any person.

  As per the draft bill, these are some of the acts/practices that will be made punishable:

  1. Performing any inhuman evil act, black magic or sorcery and using these practices to extort, threaten or intimidate people or encouraging other people to commit such acts.

  2. Creating an impression that an external force, inapprehensible by human senses has possessed the body of an individual and thereby creating fear in the minds of other people. 

  3. Assaulting a person, causing physical harm in the form of tying them with a rope or chain, beating them with a stick, forcing a person to perform sexual act and other such acts under the pretext of eradicating the ghost that has possessed the body.

  4. To create panic in the minds of the public in general on the pretext of invoking ghost or threaten to invoke ghost creating an impression that there is some supernatural power inapprehensible by senses, and preventing a person from taking medical treatment, or threatening a person with death or causing financial loss by practicing or tending to practice black magic or an inhuman evil act.

  5. Preventing women from entering villages, forcefully abandoning the women in an isolated place in the name of menstruation or delivery and forcing the women to be nude in the name of beliefs.

  6. Forcing any person to carry on evil practices such as causing hurt or killing of an animal or bird.

  7. The practice of piercing rod or arrow from one side of the cheek to the other side.

One of the incidents from the recent past in Kerala which opened up the conversation surrounding the passing of an anti-superstition bill was the murder of four members of a family in Thodupuzha in the Idukki district of Kerala. The members of the family were found dead under mysterious circumstances and there were reports that one of the members who died used to practice black magic and various other inhumane rituals.

If this Bill is made into an Act, Kerala will be the third state in India after Maharashtra and Karnataka to have passed an anti-superstition law.