‘Approach high courts for action against witchhunts’


The Supreme Court Friday refused to entertain a plea seeking strict implementation of domestic laws against witchhunts that has resulted in the deaths of over 2,500 women in the last 15 years. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice Deepak Verma and Justice T.S. Thakur refused to entertain the lawsuit, asking the petitioner, a civil society group, to approach the high courts of various states affected by social campaigns against alleged practices of black magic and witchcraft.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of nearly 1,000 rural women branded as witches by a civil society group ‘Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, accredited with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.  Appearing for the civil society group, counsel Meenakshi Arora sought enforcement of various domestic laws banning the practice of black magic and witchcraft in the states of Assam, Bihar Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Arora argued that even a few days earlier, two women were branded as witches and punished by their co-villagers for allegedly practicing witchcraft and black magic.  But the apex court refused to entertain the plea.  As Arora sought to press for their plea to be accepted on the grounds that it was related to the welfare of women and against their victimization, the bench referred to the recent bill for greater representation of women in state and union legislatures.  ‘You now have more MPs and MLAs (legislators),’ said the bench.  The lawsuit by Arora said the civil society group was asked by the women in an unanimous resolution to represent their case before the Supreme Court at the end of a three-day workshop conducted jointly with the National Legal Services Authority in Ranchi Jan 17-19, 2010.  The court may kindly intervene into the matter in the interest of justice for the protection of the life and dignity of the exploited women…,’ the petition said.

‘These women are drawn from rural areas and belong to the weaker sections of society. One of the most disturbing and least resisted forms of gender violence we encounter in our times in India centres around witch-hunts. In the last 15 years, more than 2,500 women have been killed in the name of witchcraft,’ said the petition.  Four of the states have already enacted anti-witch craft statutes. Bihar was the first one with its Prevention of Witch (Dayan) Practices Act of 1999, Jharkhand followed with the Anti-Witchcraft Act in 2001 and then Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan enacted their own laws in 2005 and 2006 respectively.  ‘Ministry of Women and Child Development may kindly be directed to immediately create a separate fund and social scheme to support victims of ‘dayan pratha’ (witch hunts) financially and secure their rehabilitation,’ the petition sought.  It also requested the court to direct the Ministry of Home Affairs to honour its international legal obligations for protection of women and weaker sections of society


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