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Bill on witch-hunting in next Assembly session

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, April 8 � The State government has assured the Gauhati High Court that the draft Bill on witch hunting would be placed in the next Assam Assembly session.

AC Buragohain, Advocate General, Assam submitted before the Court that the State of Assam has already come out with the �draft Bill� to prevent witch hunting, which is now awaiting approval of the Cabinet.

In compliance of the earlier order passed by the Gauhati High Court in PIL No. 98 of 2013, which was filed against the menace of witch hunting, by Rajeeb Kalita, a Guwahati-based lawyer, LS Changsan, Home Commissioner, Assam, on Monday appeared in person before the division bench, comprising Chief Justice (acting) K Shreedhar Rao and Justice PK Saikia.

In view of the undertaking given by the State to bring the necessary legislation in the next Assembly session, the PIL was disposed of and the copy of the Bill was submitted in the court and was also given to the counsel of the petitioner. Advocate BD Konwar, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner, stated that there is still scope for improvement in the draft Bill known as �The Prevention of and Protection from Witch Hunting Bill, 2015�.

He contended that the State government should place the Bill in the public domain and invite suggestions from all stake holders, including various NGOs working to prevent the menace of witch hunting.

Failure on the part of the State government officials to comply with the timeframe to bring the legislation may expose them to contempt of court proceedings, he said. Advocate Konwar also expressed concern about lack of protective home and rehabilitation centre for the victims of witch hunting.

The State government has only one shelter home for elderly people at Boko and another is coming up at Sonapur. Besides, there are nine shelter homes for elderly people being operated by different NGOs.

The significance of the Bill is that Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure will not apply and no person can seek anticipatory bail in relation to any case involving the arrest of any person on accusation of having committed an offence under the said law. Every offence under the new law will be cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.

The Court shall presume the commission of the offence and the burden of proving that an accused had not committed an offence shall be upon the person. All fines realised as punishment for an offence shall be paid to the victim as compensation which is not compounded with any other compensation or financial assistance, which the government may decide to pay as immediate relief to the victim or rehabilitation grant. The aggrieved person can file an appeal before the High Court. All offences shall be tried by a special court not below the rank of an Additional Sessions Judge.

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