Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 03 February 2023
- Does India have anti-superstition legislation?
- Fewer POCSO Act Convictions
In Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district, two women were recently found murdered as part of a ritual involving human sacrifice. The state government then emphasised the necessity of new legislation to counter these superstitious practises and urged strict adherence to existing laws.
GS Paper 2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Do you believe that a centralised anti-superstition law is required to deal strictly with crimes associated with superstition, occult practises, and black magic? (250 words)
About the Incident
- The brutal murders of two women as part of “ritualistic human sacrifices” in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district have shocked the country.
- The grisly details of the killings have sparked a debate in Kerala about the prevalence of superstitious beliefs, black magic, and sorcery.
- In the absence of a comprehensive anti-superstition law, the call for a strict anti-superstition law has grown louder.
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) 2021 report, six deaths were linked to human sacrifices, while 68 killings were motivated by witchcraft.
Human Sacrifice Legislative Framework in India
- While there is currently no nationwide legislation in India dealing with superstitious practises, black magic, or human sacrifice in particular, certain sections of the Indian Penal Code enlist penalties applicable for such incidents.
- Section 302 of the IPC (punishment for murder) recognises human sacrifice, but only after the murder has occurred; similarly, Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) works to discourage such practises.
- Furthermore, Article 51A (h) of the Indian Constitution states that it is a fundamental duty of Indian citizens to cultivate a scientific temper, humanism, and a spirit of inquiry and reform.
- Other provisions of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act of 1954 aim to combat the debilitating effects of various superstitious activities prevalent in India.
What are the specific laws in each state?
- There are currently witch-hunting laws in eight Indian states. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Assam, Maharashtra, and Karnataka are among them.
- Bihar – o In 1999, the state of Bihar was the first to pass a law prohibiting superstitious practises.
- India’s Prevention of Witchcraft Practices Act, 1999, was among the first to address witchcraft and inhumane rituals.
- Maharashtra – o In 2013, the state of Maharashtra passed the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil, and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, which outlawed human sacrifice in the state.
- A section of the law specifically addresses claims made by ‘godmen’ who claim to have supernatural powers.
- Furthermore, the law allows for the curtailment of so-called godmen’s activities before they become too powerful to effectively address the threat of religious exploitation.
- Karnataka – Similarly, the state of Karnataka enacted a contentious anti-superstition law known as the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act in 2017.
- The Act comprehensively combats “inhumane” religious ritual practises. • Kerala lacks a comprehensive Act dealing with black magic and other superstitions.
A national anti-superstition and black magic act is required
- There is a need for a national anti-superstition and black magic act because only eight states in India have witch-hunting legislation. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Assam, Maharashtra, and Karnataka are among them.
- Allowing such practises to continue unabated violates an individual’s fundamental right to equality and right to life under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, respectively.
- Such acts also violate several provisions of international treaties to which India has signed, including the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948,’ the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966,’ and the ‘Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979.’
- In the absence of measures to combat superstitions, unscientific and irrational practises, as well as misinformation about medical procedures, can flourish, threatening public order and citizens’ health.
- In cases handled by the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act of 2012 in e-Courts across the nation, a think-tank analysis found that 43.44% of trials result in acquittals and only 14.03% in convictions.
- Furthermore, in 22.9% of the 138 detailed judgements examined, the accused were familiar to the victims.
GS Paper 2: Issues related to children
We shouldn’t let talk of severe penalties take our focus away from the issues with the POCSO Act’s current implementation. Talk about the POCSO (Amendment) Bill 2019 here. (150 words)
Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO):
- About: It is the country’s first comprehensive law dealing specifically with child sexual abuse, enacted in 2012, and administered by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- Its goal was to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornographic violations, as well as to set up Special Courts for such cases.
- The Act was amended in 2019 to increase the penalties for certain offences in order to deter abusers and promote a dignified upbringing.
- Important provisions:
- Gender equality legislation: According to the Act, a child is “any person” under the age of 18.
- Non-reporting is illegal: Anyone in charge of an institution (excluding children) who fails to report a sexual offence involving a subordinate faces punishment.
- There is no time limit for reporting abuse: A victim may report an offence at any time, even years after it has occurred.
- Confidentiality of the victim’s identity: The Act prohibits the disclosure of the victim’s identity in any form of media unless authorised by the Act’s special courts.
- Concerns: o This type of abuse is on the rise, especially since the Covid-19 outbreak, when new forms of cybercrime have emerged.
- A lack of awareness or knowledge on the part of minor girls, boys, parents, and society in general.
- The Justice, Access, and Lowering Delays in India (JALDI) Initiative at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy collaborated with the World Bank’s Data Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE) initiative to conduct the analysis, titled “A Decade of Pocso.”
- Furthermore, the accused in 96% of POCSO cases was a person known to the victim, according to data provided by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) in 2021.
- In Andhra Pradesh, acquittals were 7 times more common than convictions, and in West Bengal, they were 5 times more common.
- However, in Kerala, the difference between acquittal and conviction is not as great.
- With 13.54 cases per 100,000 people, Delhi had the highest number of POCSO trials in 2018.
- The University of Pennsylvania has the most cases pending, accounting for more than three-fourths (77.77%) of all lawsuits filed between November 2012 and February 2021.
- The police’s slow pace of investigation and the delay in depositing samples with the Forensic Science Laboratories are two major reasons for the high number of pending cases.
- Educating children about the legislation and its provisions in the future.
- Sensitization and training programmes
- Execution of the Fast Track Special Court Scheme
- A child protection policy based on the zero-tolerance principle for child abuse.