Jharkhand HC asks govt to submit detailed report on measures taken to prevent witch-hunting

The Jharkhand High Court has directed the state government to file a detailed report on the measures taken by the administration to prevent witch-hunting.

A division bench of Chief Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra and Justice Ananda Sen on Tuesday heard a public interest litigation initiated suo motu on the rising number of instances of people being brandished as witches, leading to public humiliation and even death of the victims.

The court asked the government to file a comprehensive report detailing the steps taken to improve the situation. The next date of the hearing has been fixed as September 9.

The judges expressed concern on the issue and observed that separate enactments have been made by the government to curb the practice of witch-hunting, but nothing much seems to have been achieved.

News reports of people being branded as witches and being lynched by mobs are very frequent, the judges observed.

The bench also said that superstition has to be dealt with on a massive scale to stop the evil in the society.

The court said that people have to be made aware and continuous awareness programmes need to be planned and executed to ensure positive results.

The government informed the court that the maximum number of cases of victims being assaulted and killed were from Gumla district.

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The rural areas of the district are a hotbed of superstition, the government counsel said.

The PIL was initiated suo motu by the high court in 2015 after a news report stated that five women were tortured and murdered in Mandar, a few kilometres outside the state capital after being branded as witches.

The incident occurred on August 7, 2015 and was reported in a local vernacular daily.

The women were paraded naked in the village before being hacked to death, the report said.

An official said that the number of witch-hunting survivors in Gumla stood at a whopping 476, while a campaign to prevent such incidents has covered 265 villages in the district.

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