Bill mooted to adjudicate witchcraft related crimes

  • Proposed bill envisions increasing prison term and fine for convicts

Jul 29, 2014-

The government has proposed increasing jail sentence and fine to a person convicted of witchcraft-related violence, and treating the crime under a separate category.   

The proposed Witchcraft Bill (crime and punishment) envisions jail sentence up to five years and fine of Rs 50,000 to the person convicted of insulting or mistreating anyone on witchcraft accusation. Mistreatment of the family members of the witchcraft accused is also punishable by the law, the proposed bill states.   

If one is socially ostracised or evicted from their locality on witchcraft charges, then the accused could face a jail sentence up to five years and fine of Rs 50,000.

This is a marked change from the previous provisions relating to crime of accusing one of witchcraft. Earlier, the civil code provisioned a jail term between three months to two years and fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000. Both jail term and fine were optional. The new provision not only makes jail sentence and fine mandatory, but also makes the crime a non-bailable offence.

The proposed bill also proposes interim protection provision, wherein the victim will be allowed to stay in their house. Similarly, the aggressor party is required to provide adequate funds for the victim’s treatment.  

In case the accused is financially weak then the state should bear the treatment cost through the fund for controlling gender violence which falls under the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.

As for compensation, the proposed bill states that the fund should be provided by the accused. In case the accused is unable to pay the compensation, the proposed bill mandates that government should pay the amount. If the victim dies in the incident, then the compensation should be given to their children or close family members.

The proposed bill provisions that the complaints regarding witchcraft related offences should be recorded within 90 days of the incident.

Observers believe that the proposed bill is a positive move as it provisions tougher sentence for the offence. “The categorisation of the offence and separate sentencing for them is a welcome change,” said Senior Advocate Sapna Pradhan Malla.

She, however, sounded caution and called for specifying ways to bear compensation and cost incurred during treatment.

Published: 30-07-2014 09:17

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