Calcutta High Court: While condemning the practice of witch hunting, the Court issued certain directives for the State Government in order to eradicate the evil practice of witch hunting.

In the present case, the petitioners were driven out of their villages on suspicion of practicing witchcraft. The Counsel appearing for the Petitioners have submitted that the petitioners have been restored to their home and hearth and adequate police assistance has also been given to them.

The Bench comprising of Joymalya Bagchi J. in view of the observation laid down in Gaurav Jain v. State of Bihar, 1991 Supp (2) SCC 133, directed State Government to undertake the following steps in order to ensure and eradicate the evil practice of witch hunting:-

  • The State Government shall form a Committee comprising of experts from the field of public administration, sociologists, etc. to look into the prevalence of the practice of witch hunting in various districts in the State of West Bengal with special emphasis in tribal areas and the Committee shall submit its report to the State Government within six months from date of the order;
  • The Committee shall specify in its report the areas in the State of West Bengal, if any, where there is substantial prevalence of the practice of witch hunting and based on such report the Government shall form special cells in the concerned districts to deal with the issue of witch hunting in the said districts. The Government shall also post intelligence and police officers in such special cells who would carry on surveillance activity, collection of information and/or intelligence in the matter and, if necessary, take preventive measures to ensure that such unlawful practices are not carried on;
  • Officers of the special cell would also, in the event a witch hunting activity is indulged, promptly register criminal cases against the offenders and take necessary remedial measures in the matter;
  • The victims of witch hunting shall be given District legal assistance through the Legal Services Authority as aggrieved persons who are entitled to legal aid under The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and they shall also be extended necessary medical and psychological help and/or protection as they are the vulnerable witnesses of the crime by the State.
  • The State Government may also explore the possibility of formulating a Comprehensive Victim Compensation Scheme under Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure for victims of witch hunting.

[Smt. Moyna Murmu v. State of West Bengal, 2016 SCC OnLine Cal 4272, decided on August 2, 2016]

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