Law to curb ‘witch hunting’ in Assam soon?

Guwahati, Assam: At long last, a law will be enacted to deal with the superstitious and barbaric practice of ‘withch-hunting’ in North Eastern state of Assam. Under Guwahati High Court pressure, the Assam government promised it would table the anti-witch-hunting bill in the next Assembly session.

Assam home secretary L.S. Changsan, who appeared before the high court, submitted that the state government would introduce the bill in the monsoon session (June-July) of the Assembly.

Unhappy at the delay in enacting the law, the high court had, on April 1, ordered the home secretary to appear personally before it. It had passed the order during the hearing of a PIL filed by lawyer Rajeeb Kalita in 2013 to seek action from the state government to end this social evil.

Changsan today informed the the court of the steps taken by the government towards framing the law.

Assam advocate-general A.C. Burgohain submitted that the draft of the bill was awaiting cabinet approval. The draft had been prepared by CID additional director-general Mukesh Sahay and necessary modifications were made at a recent meeting resided over by the home secretary. With approval from chief minister Tarun Gogoi, the home department had sent the draft to the departments concerned like social welfare, personnel and law.

Petitioner Kalita revealed that a division bench of Chief Justice (acting) K. Sreedhar Rao and Justice Prasanta Kumar Saikia, said witch-hunting is a very serious issue and the government should take it with the seriousness it deserves.

The court expressed displeasure that the government did not appear much concerned about the issue.draft1

It asked the state government to place the draft in the public domain as part of the pre-legislative consultative process as early as possible so that the bill can be passed in the next Assembly session.  Failure to table the bill in the next session will attract contempt of court proceedings, Kalita said quoting the court directive.

On November 3 last year, the state government had submitted in court that effective steps, including enactment of a law, would be taken within a month to tackle witch-hunting and killing but the draft has been prepared after a five month wait.

Officially, 82 people were killed in incidents of witch-hunting in Assam since 2009. Police have registered 98 cases in connection with the killings and attempted killings. The highest incidents were witnessed by Kokrajhar district (18) followed by Chirang (11) and Sonitpur (8). Non-governmental organisations have been demanding a tough law to deal with this social evil.

Senior advocate Bhaskar Dev Konwar said there was scope for improvement in the draft bill and the government should invite suggestions from the stakeholders, including NGOs working against witch-hunting in the state.

The draft bill proposes to make witch-hunting a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence. A person booked under it will be denied anticipatory bail.

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Posted by on April 7, 2015. Filed under Assam,Breaking News,NORTH EAST. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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