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Witch-hunt petition blow to govt

Witch-hunt petition blow to govt

LALMOHAN PATNAIK
Cuttack, May 13: A contempt petition was filed by the Odisha Rationalist Society against the state government for not implementing Orissa High Court’s direction to bring in a legislation to tackle the menace of witch-hunting.

The society, in its petition, submitted that the Odisha government had not taken any action, as directed by the high court on April 25 last.

The high court directed the Odisha government to implement the order within one year, while prescribing guidelines for the authorities and preventive steps to be taken by them to check the menace.

“Due to inaction of the Odisha government there has been frequent witch-hunting in the state,” the petition alleged, seeking contempt proceedings against the chief secretary, home commissioner-cum-secretary of the home department and the commissioner-cum-secretary of the law department.

Women are being ostracised on witchcraft charges and put to gruesome torture in some pockets across Odisha. In the absence of a law against such criminal activities, more people are becoming victims, and the culprits are going unpunished, the petitioner alleged.

Earlier, the society secretary Debendra Sutar had filed a PIL, seeking enactment of a law and issuing of guidelines by the government to curb the rising incidents of atrocities on women on charges of being witches or practising witchcraft.

The high court had asked the Odisha government to introduce a bill in the state legislature within one year and guidelines after taking up the PIL for analogous hearing along with another PIL filed by Sashiprava Bindhani, a social activist.

“The Odisha government is still blind to the problem while neighbouring states such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, where such superstitions are prevalent, have enacted strong laws to check the social evil,” the rationalist society’s counsel Kshirod Rout said today.

“The contempt petition was filed last week. The high court has not taken it up yet for hearing,” Rout said.

While providing the guidelines, the court had prescribed preventive steps. Public awareness programmes should be launched in the gram panchayats to eradicate the superstitions of witchcraft, it observed.

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