Gauhati High Court: In a case before the Court, the appellant had appealed against the judgment of the Sessions Court which sentenced them under Sections 302/201/34 of the Penal Code (IPC) to imprisonment for life. The duly proved facts of the case were that the accused persons had murdered the deceased/victims by suspecting them to be ‘Dainees’ (witches).

On adhering to the facts of the case, the Court took note of the fact that inhuman and barbaric practice of witch hunting was still prevalent in parts of Assam and North-eastern State. The Division Bench comprising of Ujjal Bhuyan and Paran Kumar Phukan, JJ. observed that branding of a man or a woman as a witch and then resorting to witch hunting is the most dehumanizing act and is one of the worst forms of human rights violations.

The Bench further highlighted that the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015, is awaiting assent of the President of India and needs to be passed soon. The Court said that witch-hunting is a socio-legal problem and needs to be curbed soon. The Court noted that in the North-Eastern states, some people, mostly elderly women, are branded as witches and thereafter they are subjected to severe abuse in the name of getting rid of the evil supposed to be in them.

Terming it a social menace, the Bench observed: “Witch hunting as a phenomenon is not only confined to the State of Assam; it has affected large parts of the country. It is rooted in flawed quasi-religious beliefs, antiquated socio-cultural traditions blended with extreme superstitions practices.”

Terming the act as one of the worst forms of human rights violations, the Court confirmed the conviction of two accused and acquitted one giving him the benefit of doubt. [Bhim Turi v. State of Assam,  2017 SCC OnLine Gau 813, decided on 27.10.2017]


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