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President Kovind gives assent to Assam's Anti-Witch Hunting Bill
Posted on: 16-07-2018 , 12:25:PM | DY365 Bureau

 Picture Courtesy: theshillongtimes

July 16, 2018: In a recent development, President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to Assam’s Anti-Witch Hunting Bill 2015 also known as the the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, 2015, that makes "witch-hunting" a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence and is said to be strictest in the country against such a crime.


As per reports, the President gave his assent on June 13, following several queries regarding the act provisions. It may be mentioned that a gazette notification on the act is likely to be published soon.
President's assent is required when an act passed by a state Assembly contravenes central law. In this case, the act contravenes sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deal with such crimes.
The act, passed by Assam Assembly in 2015, with provisions of jail term between seven years and life imprisonment and fine for intimidating a person by calling a witch or any act leading or compelling the person to commit suicide was forwarded to the President in December 2015.
Prohibiting witch-hunting, the act says no person shall identify, call, stigmatise, defame, accuse any other person as witch by words, signs, indications, conduct, action or any other manner or instigate, aid or abet such an act or commit witch-hunting.
The act has provisions to impose fines on a community found involved in witch-hunt attacks. It also makes it mandatory for panchayat members, village development councils or gaonburhas (village chiefs) to inform the nearest police station if they come across a witch-hunting incident, failing which they will face departmental action or fine up to Rs 10,000. The provision, many believe, will help check lynching.
The act says the government will designate a court of additional session’s judge as a special court for trial of such cases within a year of filing of police report. The legislation was prepared after lawyer Rajeeb Kalita had filed a PIL in Gauhati High Court in 2013, seeking an anti-witch hunt law since over 130 people have died in attacks in at least 17 districts since 2002. Reportedly, 80 women had died since 2006 in "witch-hunt" attacks.

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