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Aye to check witchcraft

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 5: The Assembly today passed a Bill seeking imprisonment up to three years for witch-hunting and practice of witchcraft prevalent in the state.

The move comes in the wake of reports of growing and frequent barbaric murder of women branded as “witches” and other persons practising similar acts.

“The proposed legislation aims to prohibit witch-hunting and other similar practices,” said parliamentary affairs minister Kalpataru Das, who piloted the Bill on behalf of chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

Earlier, Bihar had enacted the Prevention of Witch (Daain) Practice Act, 1999, preventing witchcraft in the state. Chhatishgarh and Jharkhand governments made similar legislation subsequently. In August, the Maharastra government promulgated an ordinance banning the practice of black magic, witchcraft and other superstitious practices.

The Odisha Prevention of Witch-hunting Bill-2013, which was passed in the Assembly today, said: “No person shall commit witch hunting or practise witchcraft with an intent to cause harm or injury to another person.” It would be made a law following the assent of the governor.

Every offence under this law will be cognisable and non-bailable, said official sources, adding that penal provision had also been made for repeated offences.

The Bill made penal provision of imprisonment up to three years or fine not less than Rs 1,000 or both for witch-hunting. Similarly, a person, found practising witchcraft, will be liable to punishment with imprisonment for not less than a year extendable to three years or a fine of not less than Rs 5,000 or both.

Under this proposed legislation, a person convicted for the second offence or beyond will be punishable with imprisonment of not less than three years and extendable to seven years and with a fine not less than Rs 10,000.

Secretary of the Odisha Rationalist Society Debendra Sutar said 56 deaths due to witchcraft were reported in 2010, 72 in 2011, 52 in 2012 and 50 this year (till November end).

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