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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 31 October, 2022

  • 5 Min Read

Anti-superstition laws

Anti-superstition laws

  • The state of Kerala has emphasized the need for new legislation to stop such superstitious practices and recommended rigorous application of the current laws in this area in the wake of the alleged human sacrifice of two women in Kerala.

Introduction

  • It is an unfounded conviction stemming from "ignorance or terror and characterised by obsessive veneration for omens, charms, etc." or "reverence for the supernatural."
  • The word "superstition" comes from the Latin word "Superstitio," which denotes a ferocious fear of the deity.
  • Superstitions are pervasive and can be found all over the world; they are not specific to any one nation, religion, culture, community, area, caste, or social class.

Arguments in favour of/need for legislation

  • Black magic and other superstitious activities make crimes that the IPC cannot handle.
  • Religious authority cannot justify harmful actions that cause harm to others, such as the hurling of children upon thorns or the parade of women in their undies.

Arguments in opposition: We don't need a separate law

  • Special laws being passed for each category of crimes is not a solution and only makes the situation worse.
  • Although it may appear important, an anti-superstition law cannot take into account all realities.
  • Such a law's purpose is to combat superstition, which is primarily connected to religious and occult rituals.
  • For the mere reason that there is no scientific justification for almost everything connected to any religion, it may be argued that it is superstitious.
  • Absence of scientific evidence: Attending a temple, mosque, or church can be considered superstitious because there is no evidence to suggest that doing so has any positive effects.
  • Since these actions produce no harm to anyone, they cannot be stopped.
  • We have the freedom of conscience and the right to hold beliefs even when logic and science don't support them due to the fundamental principles of a liberal democracy.
  • Our nation's substantive legal system is strong enough to deal with these offences.
  • For instance, Sections 307 and 323 of the IPC make it illegal to throw a kid upon thorns. In a similar vein, Section 354B of the IPC can deal particularly parading a lady while she is nude.
  • Changes to the Indian Evidence Act and Criminal Procedure Code can be made to address these superstitions.

Major Obstacles

  • Fundamental rights are violated by witch-hunting and other crimes associated with superstition, which are prohibited by Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Several international laws, including the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," and "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women," to which India is a signatory, are also violated by these activities.
  • Ineffective implementation: States are permitted to create particular criminal laws since law and order is a state responsibility. States have the same freedom to change laws that are enacted by the Union.
  • Lack of effective governance: If the administration is serious about stopping such behaviours, current rules need to be more actively implemented and enforced.
  • Punishment certainty: Studies in criminology have shown that it is punishment certainty, not the type or severity of the punishment, that has the greatest impact on reducing crime.
  • Poor implementation: We have a history of passing good legislation but failing to put them into practise. More laws but less "rule of law" is referred to as "over-criminalization" in the legal community.
  • Religions are aware that religion can be misused; there have long been tales of phoney sadhus and dishonest sanyasis.

Similar Laws

  • There are already laws against witch-hunting in eight states in India. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Assam, Maharashtra, and Karnataka are some of these.
  • In 1999, the state of Bihar took the lead in enacting a law to address superstitious behaviours.
  • One of the earliest laws in India to confront witchcraft and cruel rituals was the Prevention of Witch Practices Act.
  • The practice of human sacrifice was outlawed in the state of Maharashtra in 2013 with the passage of the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act.
  • In 2015, the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill was passed. Together with Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, this Act will be enforced. Nearly three years after the Assembly passed this bill, it became law.
  • The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act, a contentious anti-superstition law, was also enacted in the state of Karnataka in 2017.
  • It thoroughly opposes "inhumane" practises connected to religious rituals, such as performing any inhumane act, engaging in evil deeds and black magic in search of riches, tantric acts such as physical and sexual assault, creating the impression of "possession" and exorcism or assaulting people under the guise of exorcism, claiming to have healing abilities, compelling people to perform fire-walking, and so on.
  • Prevention of Eradication of Black Magic, Sorcery, and Inhuman Evil Practices in Kerala Bill' in 2019 that included fines of up to Rs 50,000 and prison terms of up to seven years for those convicted of crimes covered by the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • However, it was unsuccessful because it was not brought up for debate or approved by the state legislative assembly.

Way forward

  • Sensitization is required since no superstition can be eradicated by the force of legislation. A mental sensitization is required for that.
  • The anti-superstition law also enables the restriction of so-called godmen's actions before they amass too much power.
  • Criminal justice that is more easily accessible requires a significant redesign of the enforcement apparatus.
  • Indian people have a fundamental obligation to cultivate a scientific temperament, humanism, and a spirit of inquiry and reform, according to Article 51A (h) of the Indian Constitution.
  • Drugs and Magic Remedies Act of 1954 provisions also seek to address the detrimental effects of numerous superstitious practices that are common in India.

Source: The Hindu


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