Black magic has long been practised in India and is a crime against humanity in our society, encouraged by people’s religious notions. There are numerous instances where exorcisms are carried out, people are thrown down wells, or the sick person is beaten for days in the name of cure. Following the reported human sacrifice of two women in the state of Kerala, the state has emphasised the necessity of new legislation to combat such superstitious rituals and urged strict adherence to existing regulations. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), human sacrifices were the cause of 6 deaths in 2021, whereas witchcraft was the cause of 68 deaths. Chhattisgarh had the most reported witchcraft instances, second by Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. Around 800 women have been killed as a result of witchcraft in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha in the past few decades. These instances have aroused major concerns about the growing obsession with superstitions and occult rituals. In light of these issues, adequate legislation governing black magic is more necessary than ever.
LEGISLATURE RELATED TO BLACK MAGIC
Criminal acts involving black magic and other superstitious offences are against the Indian Constitution’s Articles 14, 15, and 21 which guarantee individuals’ fundamental rights. This concept is included in India’s Anti-Superstition Bill, but it has not yet become law. Even after a series of peculiar occurrences, India has no comprehensive legislation. However, several proposals have been introduced to define black magic. The anti-superstition bill’s history began in 2003 with the introduction of the first version of the legislation. The 2003 bill was known as the “Jadu Tona Andh-Shradha Virodhi.” The bill’s introduction marked the first time a law of this nature had ever been proposed anywhere in the country. A revised draft was presented in March 2005, two years after the initial one and with only a few minor changes from the 2003 version. An amended version was eventually authorised on December 16, 2005. “Black Magic” or “blind faith” was described in the March bill in a somewhat general way.
LEGISLATURE IN STATES
Considering this predicament, certain Indian state governments have identified the significance of comprehensive anti-black magic legislation since 1999. Rarely has this been done, and when it has, the execution has been inadequate. The state of Maharashtra followed suit in 2013, passing the “Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil, and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act”, which prohibited human sacrifice in the state. The Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015 would be used in tandem with “Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code”. This Bill became an Act approximately three years after the Assembly passed it. In 2017, the state of Karnataka passed a contentious anti-superstition bill known as the” Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act.” In 2019, The Kerala Prevention of Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices, Sorcery, and Black Magic Bill, was passed which, stipulated that, in addition to the penalties for violations of the IPC, convictions might result in sentences of up to seven years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 50,000.
Anyone may file an FIR under Section 154 of the CrPC to report black magic-related activity in other Indian states where there is no specific law to address the practice of black magic so that the police can look into it. According to Section 508 of IPC, “whoever voluntarily causes or attempts to induce any person to do anything which that person is not legally bound to do or to omit to do anything which he is legally entitled to do by inducing or attempting to induce that person to believe that he or any person in whom he is interested will become or will be rendered by some act of the offender an object of Divine displeasure if he does not do the thing which it is the object of the offender to cause him to do, or if he does the thing which it is the object of the offender to force him to omit, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
In India, there have been several judicial cases concerning the regulation of black magic.
In the case of Sushil Murmu v State of Jharkhand, the counsel for the respondent State alleged that a 9-year-old child was mercilessly and horrifyingly slain. Because this instance is among the “rarest of the rare,” the death penalty was appropriately imposed. The court decided that ” Superstition can not justify any killing, much less a planned and deliberate one. No amount of superstitious colour can wash away the sin and offence of an unprovoked killing, more so in the case of an innocent and defenceless child.”
In the case of Ishwari Lal Yadav v. State of Chhattisgarh which involved the sacrifice of a two-year-old child, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalties for the husband-and-wife Kiran Bai and Ishwari Yadav. Using the rules laid down in Sushil Murmu case it determined that the current case was “the rarest of the rare,” deserving of the death penalty, as had been correctly determined by the lower courts.
- Infringement of fundamental rights: Witch-hunting and other crimes associated with superstition violate the fundamental rights provided by Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- Breach of various international conventions: India is a signatory to several international treaties, including the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” which was adopted in 1979, the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” and the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” all of which were signed in 1948.
- Ineffective implementation: States are free to enact particular criminal laws since law and order is a state concern. States have the same freedom to change laws that are enacted by the Union.
- Ineffective governance: If the administration is serious about stopping such behaviours, current regulations need to be more actively implemented and enforced.
Legislation is simply one part of the effort in eradicating superstition. The general public needs to be educated via social media strategies, and mainstream media. The problem of superstition must be addressed by our formal education system. Authorities are making an effort to curb crimes committed under the guise of black magic by making unachievable and false promises to innocent individuals. Superstition law is required in India, however, the specific provisions that should be included must first be discussed. No superstition can be eradicated by the force of legislation. It requires a change of perspective. However, regulations that address superstitious behaviours that are exploitative, harsh, and cruel must be handled. While some feel that these behaviours and rituals performed in the name of God may be regarded as a manifestation of religion, a delicate balance between devotion and superstition must be established in legislation.
Author(s) Name: Varsha Devarakonda (Symbiosis Law School, Pune)