India has always been symbolised as the land of mythical legends and snake charmers. Tantric powers began to be identified with tantra enthusiasts who were eager to hold more power for achieving more pleasures. The Bombay High Court in 1873 shouldered a significant task of adjudicating a rather mystic and unusual criminal trial of an infamously famous case known as the ‘The DeGa Conspiracy Case’. The conspiracy involved the murder of a married couple Nicholas DeGa and Rose Mary DeGa over a pending property dispute by 4 people-Pestonjee Dinshaw, Sakharam Raghoba who hired Kakeshah Elahi Bakhsh, a black art practitioner and a Sorcerer to end the lives of the couple in a way that would not draw any suspicion. Mohammad Ali was involved in the conspiracy too who later tipped off the police. Even if murder by black art was not a penal offence, the accused were held guilty for instigating murder by other means. This was one of the earliest most significant case of black magic. In modern times, Law has progressed a lot to include black magic and other such superstitious act as a penal offence. Even though there is no specific act extending to whole of India, many States have come up with State legislations to curb the influence of black magic and witch craft in their State. Maharashtra was the first State to pass a bill on Anti Black Magic and Aghori bill which later came to be known as the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.
Under this act, certain convictions are also made punishable under the IPC. A person is convicted on the ground that he is practicing Black Magic irrespective of whether he is involved in committing a murder or not. The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhumane Evil Practices and Black Magic Act 2017, also known as the Anti-Superstition Act came into effect from 4 January, 2020. 16 acts which cause harm to people under the aegis of witchcraft, superstition, black magic etc. have been banned by the legislation. A person booked under this act could be sentenced or imposed a fine or both under various provision of the IPC including sec 302(murder), sec 307 (attempt to murder) and sec 308 (abetment to suicide). The State legislatures of various States have introduced many laws with an aim to curb such evil practices. These legislations provide remedy to individuals, however in practical aspect, they do not eradicate the evil in the society at large. When it comes to the punishment part, all the legislations lack a uniformity in providing sentences or punishments for the offence to the perpetrators.
By Ms. Aitreyee Doley, Legal Intern at S.Bhambri & Associates (Advocates), Delhi.