The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought comprehensive reports from the Chief Secretary and DGP, Odisha with compilation of reports from the district Collectors regarding prevention of sorcery and witch hunting and disbursement of compensation to the victims of such social evil.
Issuing a fresh direction recently on a petition filed by civil rights lawyer and activist Radhakanta Tripathy, the NHRC passed the order.
The petition contained year-wise data of deaths in Odisha due to sorcery. The prevalence of the practice continues even after intervention of the NHRC, NCW and other forums, Tripathy contended. Earlier, the NHRC had asked the Chief Secretary and all the District Magistrates to take action under the Witch Hunting Act, 2013 at the village level, through the involvement of elected ward members and by conducting awareness campaign in association with NGOs.
Besides, it had directed to provide monetary compensation to the victims or the family members of the deceased. Tripathy in his rejoinder had reiterated that the State agencies were yet to expedite probes and trials of offences under the Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2013.
The State also failed to comply with an earlier direction from the NHRC, he had added. In an earlier case filed by Tripathy, the NHRC after careful consideration had given importance to the case of sorcery and witchcraft and had directed the Special Secretary (Home), Government of Odisha, to ensure strict implementation of the action plan aimed at prevention of witch hunting throughout the State with special focus on areas where the crime was widely prevalent.
The NHRC also directed the Home Secretary, Odisha, to ensure submission of appropriate half yearly reports to the Commission regarding the implementation of the action plan also indicating the reported witch hunting incidents in the State. The Registrar (Law) of the NHRC shall evaluate the reports and bring it to the notice of the Commission as and when the Commission considers it necessary for making direction, the order had stated.
Citing the relevant portion of the Act, the NHRC observed that the State Government may make one or more schemes to conduct awareness programme on blind belief and educate people about the absurd concept of evil spirit and witchcraft.
It also directed for provision of compensation to the victims. The apex rights panel passed the order after the State failed to implement the Act in true spirit and submit its reports.