Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices, Sorcery and Black Magic Bill, 2019 has been submitted to the CPI(M)-led LDF government for its consideration to pass as legislation.

Kerala, which recently witnessed an alarming spurt in the number of black magic cases, is gearing up to bring in a legislation to curb "inhuman" practices and exploitation in the name of superstition.

The legislative assemblies of Karnataka and Maharashtra had passed the Anti-Superstition Black Magic Bill in 2017 and 2013, respectively.

The draft bill, which PTI claims to have access to, proposes stringent punishment for any kind of evil practice and cheating in the name of black magic, ranging from "expelling ghost" to isolating women for menstruation and postpartum.

It also aims at raising social awareness in the society with a view to protect people against fraudulent and exploitative practices thriving on ignorance. "The draft bill is completed, and we have submitted it to the state government," K Sasidharan Nair, vice chairman, Kerala Law Reforms Commission said, as per a PTI report.

"Unlike the bills passed by Maharashtra and Karnataka, we have given special thrust to a series of intense awareness programmes in our bill for the government to implement. Because, superstition seems to be so deep-rooted in the minds of Keralites nowadays," he said.

"While going through many instances of superstition, I feel whether we deserve to be called a civilised society? Only a few cases are reported in the media," Nair, also a former law secretary, said.

He said a legislation and stringent punishment alone cannot make any changes in the mindset of the people.

"As it is a very sensitive topic, we have drafted the bill very carefully. I personally feel that public opinion should be garnered before it is enacted as law by the government," the vice-chairperson added.

According to the draft bill, no person shall by himself or through any other person, promote, propagate or practice, black magic or sorcery.

The offences punishable under this Act shall be "cognisable and non-bailable," it said.

Whoever commits any act in violation, shall on conviction, be sentenced for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend to seven years and with a fine of Rs 5000 to Rs 50,000, it said.

Incase of a death of a person, the accused shall be deemed to have committed an offence under Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and shall be punished accordingly, the draft bill added.

Further, it said performing any "inhuman" evil act, black magic or sorcery, parading naked or putting a ban on a person's daily activity or using such alleged practice to extort, threaten or assault a person in search of precious things, are punishable offences.

However, the draft bill clearly states that it would not be applicable to any form of worshipper formed at any religious or spiritual places and the performance of religious rituals at home, temple, church, mosque or other religious places, which do not cause physical harm to any person.

All religious celebration, festivals, prayers and processions and the advice with regard to 'vasthusastra' or advice by astrologers (unless such advice results in cheating, defrauding or exploiting any person) are also exempted, it said.

The Anti-Superstition and Black Magic draft Bill assumes significance in Kerala, which is known for its high literacy rate and progressive outlook, in view of a number of shocking incidents and sinister practises in the name of black magic in the recent days.

The death of a 27-year-old woman, from Karunagapally, allegedly due to starvation enforced by her husband and mother-in-law for dowry, had caused widespread public outrage in the state this April.

There were allegations that her in-laws had performed black magic on the woman and she was denied proper food for days. and survived only on soaked rice and sugar syrup all on the instruction of a black magician.

Pooyappally Police have arrested a man and his mother for starving his wife to death. Chandu Lal and his mother Geetha Lal allegedly kept Thushara (Chandu’s wife) starving for days because they did not receive the money demanded as dowry.

Kerala Police have charged Chandu Lal and Geetha Lal with offences such as dowry harassment, causing a person to starve to death, mental and physical torture. Thushara’s body was emaciated due to lack of food intake. The victim was a mother of two children; Chancy and Chinsy. On March 21, Chandu Lal and his mother took Thushara to Kollam district hospital, but she was declared brought dead.

In another incident, on May 12, 2019, an eight-year-old boy in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram was killed in the name of superstition. The victim, Abhishek showed symptoms of rabies, but his parents allegedly took the boy to a black magic practitioner for treatment.

On August 1, 2018, four members of a family including father, mother and children were found dead in a pit. Police suspect they were killed either in the night of July 29 or July 30 as the bodies were found in a decomposed state.