Black magic has been practised in India for a long time and is a social evil in our country supported by people's religious beliefs. There are several examples where in the context of healing the sick person, the person is thrashed for days, exorcisms are performed, or the person is thrown down the well. Recent cases of murder committed in the name of superstition expose the perverse side of India's modern civilisation. Although education is essential in ending such activities, there is also a legal obligation to address the pervasive usage of black magic. Since some believe these customs and rituals carried out in the name of God may be considered a manifestation of religion, there is a narrow line between faith and superstition that needs to be specified in legislation. The Anti-Superstition Bill of India has this concept but has not yet become an act. There is no legislation in India applicable nationwide, even after multiple bizarre incidents, one of which is the Burari case in the national capital of Delhi itself. There are a few state legislations that criminalise the practice of Black Magic and punish people for practising it, Maharashtra and Karnataka being two states.
Anti-Black Magic Laws In India
Black magic crimes and other superstitious offences violate the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. These acts also constitute violations of several international treaties, among them the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," the "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," and the "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women," all of which India is a signatory. When we talk about what black magic exactly means, there is no established definition of what black magic is due to a lack of nationalised legislation for the same. However, the reality on the ground continues to be considerably different even though the constitution and international law guarantee fundamental rights. The Indian Penal Code's flaws are mostly to blame for this. Some Indian states have recognised the need for specific anti-black magic laws since 1999 in light of this situation. However, very few have done so, and those that have, fall short in execution. However, there have been multiple bills that have attempted to define black magic. The first iteration of the anti-superstition bill was introduced in 2003, marking the beginning of the bill's history. The bill from 2003 was known as the Jadu Tona Andhshradha Virodhi. The bill's proposal was the first time law of this kind had been introduced anywhere in the nation. The definition of superstition was deemed excessively broad by most parties, who fiercely opposed the law. What would have been belief and faith to one person may have been superstition and blind faith to another. Despite these disagreements, the law eventually passed with certain modifications. Problems developed as the elections got underway, despite the bill waiting for approval from the federal government for nearly seven months. According to the President, enacting new legislation would not be proper because the administration would soon change. As a result, the bill did not become law as fate would have it. However, that was not the end of the adventure. Two years later, in March 2005, a new draft was submitted, almost identical to the one proposed in 2003, with a few minor adjustments. On December 16, 2005, an adjusted version was ultimately approved. The March bill included a relatively broad description of "Black Magic" or "blind faith". Treating, curing, or healing physical and mental problems while causing material or financial damage to a person includes practising by oneself or via another while claiming to have supernatural powers, divine powers, or the power of the spirit. Thus, this description would have included additional diverse practices like Voodoo, Wicca, and Reiki. However, the current bill has entirely deleted this because it doesn't appear to cover the practices of other religions like Islam and Christianity. The current bill has been dubbed as being anti-Hindu. Certain states have taken the step further to convert such bills into laws.
The Maharashtra state government passed the much publicised Anti-superstition bill, The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013. The law aims to make it illegal to engage in black magic, sacrifices of human beings, the use of magic to treat illnesses, and other practices that prey on people's superstitions. The Act aims to reduce superstitions resulting in monetary loss and physical harm. If found guilty, the criminal faces a sentence between six months and seven years in prison and a fine between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 50,000. All of these offences are non-bailable. Suppose the accused has been found guilty under the law. In that case, the competent court must order the police to publish the location of the offence and other pertinent information about it in the local newspaper.
The state of Karnataka, following in Maharashtra's footsteps, asked law students of the National Law School in Bangalore. The students drafted the Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Practices Bill, 2013. The anti-superstition Bill is the name given to this legislation. It is anticipated that it will stop a variety of cruel customs, including witchcraft, black magic, and acts committed in the name of a religion that endangers both people and animals. It includes clauses to deal harshly with terrible activities, including human sacrifice, flaunting naked women and sexual exploitation through the use of supernatural forces. Recently Karnataka Cabinet cleared the Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017.
Initiate Action Under Indian Laws.
In other territories of India, where there is no special legislation to deal with the practice of black magic, any person can still lodge an FIR under Section 154 of CrPC to report activities related to black magic for the police to investigate. According to section 508 of IPC, whoever voluntarily causes or attempts to induce any person to do anything which that person is not legally bound to do or to omit to do anything which he is legally entitled to do by inducing or attempting to induce that person to believe that he or any person in whom he is interested will become or will be rendered by some act of the offender an object of Divine displeasure if he does not do the thing which it is the object of the offender to cause him to do, or if he does the thing which it is the object of the offender to force him to omit, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
Even though there is no exact provision to deal with the issue of black magic, this is the closest law has gotten to trying to resolve the problem. This provision provides for any act done in fear of divine wrath, and if any person has induced such act, then such person shall be punishable for an offence under this section. Furthermore, even if action can't be taken against a person for the very act of black magic, the aftermath of the same can constitute an offence, for which a person can be punished under the Indian Penal Code, for instance, if an individual is abetted in making a killing, the same can constitute as murder and abetment to murder, here all that is required is that satisfaction of all the essentials to prove the crime. Anyone convicted for a human sacrifice that is murder will be punished under Section 302 of the IPC, Section 307 (attempt to murder), or Section 308 (abetment to suicide). The punishment for murder is death or imprisonment for life, liable to pay a fine.
Similarly, a person who fraudulently makes another person believe something untrue can be held liable for fraud. It must be understood that even if there is no legislation to deal with the same, one can take action against a person under IPC while understanding the offence in its capacity.
- Sushil Murmu v. State of Jharkhan (2003)
Learned counsel for the respondent-State submitted that a 9-year-old child was sacrificed most brutally and diabolically. This case falls within the "rarest of rare" category; therefore, the death sentence has been rightly awarded. The court ruled that "Superstition can not justify any killing, much less a planned and deliberate one. No amount of superstitious colour can wash away the sin and offence of an unprovoked killing, more so in the case of an innocent and defenceless child."
- Ishwari Lal Yadav v State of Chhattisgarh (2019)
In October 2019, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Ishwari Lal Yadav v State of Chhattisgarh (2019) confirmed death sentences for the married couple Kiran Bai and Ishwari Yadav in a case involving the human sacrifice of a two-year-old.2 Relying on the guidelines laid down in Sushil Murmu v State of Jharkhand (2004) (another case on human sacrifice), it held that the present case was "the rarest of the rare," meriting the death sentence, as had been rightly held by the courts below. In the Ishwari Lal Yadav case, the Court completely disregarded the cultural context of human sacrifice and its implications on questions of culpability in criminal law. It is argued that the Court's approach is contrary to the principle of individualised sentencing and ignores evidence on the complex anthropological and psychological dimensions of human sacrifice.
Tackling superstition through legislation is only half the battle. There is a need to educate the masses using mass media, street plays, and social media campaigns. Our conventional education system also must be equipped to tackle the scourge of superstition. Legislators are making a valiant attempt to stop crimes done under the pretext of black magic, promising innocent people things that are unrealistic and untrue. India needs superstition law, but there needs to be a discussion on what should be included. The force of law cannot dispel any superstition. A mental shift is required for it. However, laws targeting superstitious practices that are dehumanising, cruel, and exploitative must be dealt with and looked after.