Black magic has been practiced in India for a long time and is a social evil in our country supported by the religious beliefs of the people. There are several examples where, in connection with healing a sick person, that person is beaten for days, an exorcism is performed, or the person is thrown into a well. Recent cases of murders committed in the name of superstition reveal the perverse side of modern Indian civilization. While education is necessary to end such activities, there is also a legal obligation to address the pervasive use of black magic. Because some believe that these customs and rituals performed in the name of God can be considered an expression of religion, there is a fine line between faith and superstition that needs to be defined in legislation. India’s Anti-Superstition Act has this concept but has not yet become law. There is no nationwide legislation in India, even after several bizarre incidents, one of which is the Burari case in the national capital, Delhi itself. There are several state laws that criminalize the practice of black magic and punish people for practicing it, Maharashtra and Karnataka being two states.
Laws Against Black Magic in India
Crimes of black magic and other superstitious offenses violate the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. These acts also constitute a violation of several international treaties, among them the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women”, all of which India is a signatory.
Talking about what black magic exactly means, there is no established definition of what black magic is due to lack of nationalized legislation for the same. However, the reality remains quite different, even though the constitution and international law guarantee fundamental rights. This is mostly due to the shortcomings of the Indian Penal Code. Some Indian states have recognized the need for special laws against black magic since 1999 in light of this situation. However, very few have done so and those who have are lagging behind in execution. However, there are several laws that have attempted to define black magic. The first iteration of the Anti-Superstition Act was introduced in 2003, marking the beginning of the Act’s history. The 2003 bill was known as JaduTonaAndhshradha Virodhi.
The bill was the first time a law of its kind had been introduced anywhere in the country. The definition of superstition was considered too broad by most parties, which fiercely opposed the law. What would be faith and belief to one person might be superstition and blind faith to another. Despite these disagreements, the law was eventually passed with some modifications. Problems arose during the election, even though the bill had been waiting for approval by the federal government for almost seven months. According to the president, the adoption of new legislation would not be right because the administration would soon change. As a result, the bill did not become law as discussed. However, the procedure did not stop there.
Two years later, in March 2005, a new proposal was presented, almost identical to the 2003 proposal, with a few minor modifications. On December 16, 2005, the revised version was finally approved. The March bill included a fairly broad description of “black magic” or “blind faith.” Treating, healing, or curing physical and mental problems while causing material or financial harm to a person includes practicing oneself or through someone else and claiming to have supernatural powers, divine powers, or spirit power. Thus, this description would include other various practices such as Voodoo, Wicca, and Reiki. However, the current bill has dropped it entirely as it does not appear to cover the practices of other religions such as Islam and Christianity. The current bill has been called anti-Hindu. Some states have taken the further step of turning such laws into law.
The Maharashtra government has passed a much-publicized anti-superstition law, The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013. The aim of the law is to make it illegal to engage in black magic, sacrifice of human beings, use of magic to cure diseases and other practices that feed on people’s superstitions. The goal of the law is to curb superstitions leading to monetary loss and physical harm.
If found guilty, the offender faces imprisonment ranging from six months to seven years and a fine between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 50,000. All these offenses are non-bailable. Suppose the accused has been found guilty under the law. In such a case, the competent court must order the police to publish the crime scene and other related information in the local newspaper.
The state of Karnataka, following in the footsteps of Maharashtra, has asked for law students from the National Law School, Bangalore. The students drafted the Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Practices Act, 2013. This Act is called the Anti-Superstition Act. It is believed to stop various cruel practices, including witchcraft, black magic, and acts committed in the name of religion that endanger both humans and animals.
Initiate an action under Indian law
In other territories of India where there is no specific legislation to deal with the practice of black magic, anyone can file an FIR under Section 154 of the CrPC to report black magic activities for the police to investigate. According to Section 508 of IPC,
“508. Act caused by inducing person to believe that he will be rendered an object of the Divine displeasure.—Whoever voluntarily causes or attempts to cause 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 cause 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.
Even though there’s no actual provision to address the problem of black magic, this is the nearest law which has gotten to seeking to solve the trouble. This provision provides for any act done in fear of divine wrath, and if any person has brought on such act, then such individual shall be punishable for an offence underneath this segment.
Furthermore, even if action cannot be taken against a person for the very act of black magic, the aftermath of the identical can constitute an offence, for which someone can be punished underneath the Indian Penal Code, as an instance, if a person is abetted in creating a killing, the same can constitute as murder and abetment to murder, here all that is required is that satisfaction of all the essentials to show the crime. Each person convicted for a human sacrifice that is homicide may be punished under section 302 of the IPC, section 307 (attempt to homicide), or section 308 (abetment to suicide). The punishment for homicide is death or imprisonment for life, liable to pay a fine.
Further, a person who fraudulently makes every other person believe something untrue may be held chargeable for fraud. It has to be understood that even if there are no rules to deal with the identical, one could take action against someone under IPC at the same time as information the offence in its capacity.
Judicial Precedent – Ishwari Lal Yadav v State of Chhattisgarh (2019)
In October 2019, a 3-judges bench of the Supreme Court in Ishwari Lal Yadav v State of Chhattisgarh (2019) confirmed death sentences for the married couple Kiran Bai and Ishwari Yadav in a case regarding the human sacrifice of a 2-Year-Old. Counting on the suggestions laid down in Sushil Murmu v State of Jharkhand (2004) (another case on human sacrifice), held that the present case was “the rarest of the rare,” meriting the death sentence, as have been rightly held through the courts under. In the Ishwari Lal Yadav case, the Court completely neglected the cultural context of human sacrifice and its implications on questions of culpability in criminal law. It was argued that the court’s method is opposite to the principle of individualized sentencing and ignores proof on the complex anthropological and mental dimensions of human sacrifice.
Tackling superstition through legislation is only half the battle. There may be a want to educate the hundreds of the masses through the usage of mass media, street plays, and social media campaigns. Our conventional education system additionally must be ready to tackle the scourge of superstition. Legislators are making a valiant try to prevent crimes achieved under the pretext of black magic, promising innocent human beings matters which might be unrealistic and unfaithful. India desires superstition regulation, but there wishes to be a dialogue on what have to be regulated. The force of law cannot dispel any superstition. An intellectual shift is required for it. But laws targeting superstitious practices that are dehumanizing, merciless, and exploitative must be dealt with and sorted.
Author(s) Name: Siddhi Sharma (Bhartiya Vidyapeeth University, Pune)