The Assam Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015 making any offence under the Act as non-bailable, cognizable and non-compoundable to eliminate the superstition from society.
The Act was prepared to rein in the rising incidents of witch-hunting cases across the State, following demand from cross-section of society.
The Bill was tabled in the Assembly on the first day of the ongoing Monsoon Session on Monday and was put forward for discussion today.
While AIUDF MLA Abdur Rahim Khan proposed to make the Act more stringent, AGP member Keshab Mahanta urged the government to make it more reformative as the superstitious belief exists predominantly among poor and illiterate people.
“Every offence under this Act shall be cognizable, non—bailable and non—compoundable within the meaning of the Code,” the passed Bill said.
The Bill made provisions for imprisonment up to seven years along with a fine up to Rs 5 lakh for identifying and calling a person witch.
This will come with Section 302 of the IPC if someone is killed after branding as witch.
The punishment for leading a person to commit suicide after intimidating, stigmatising, defaming and accusing as witch may be extended to life imprisonment and fine up to Rs 5 lakh.
The Bill also talked about various measures that the administration and police need to initiate along with NGOs and civil society to educate people about witch hunting.
Besides, the Bill said the fine realised as punishment for an offence shall be paid to the victim or his/her next of kin as compensation by following the procedures.
While tabling the Bill, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said, “Witch-hunting has become a burning issue in the state. While both men and women fall victim to this pernicious practice, predominantly women bear the brunt of this heinous crime.”
Mr Gogoi, who also holds the Home portfolio, said such practices cause gross violation of basic human rights and contravene the letter and spirit of universal declaration of human rights.
During the Budget Session in March this year, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rockybul Hussain had informed the House on behalf of the Home Minister that at least 77 persons were killed and 60 others were injured in witch hunting incidents across Assam since 2010.