There was a time in India's rich history where religion dominated law and order
in the society. Despite India declaring itself to be secular in its preamble, it
is undeniable that religion still reverberates in our justice system. In fact,
in the case S.R Bommai v. Union of India
, the Supreme Court rejected the
American doctrine of secularism i.e. the principle of creating A wall of
separation between religion and state. Instead, it decided that the state
shall protect all religions, treat them equally, but interfere with none.
Religion has not been defined in the Constitution nor any other law in India. It
has been given a wide interpretation but could be defined as:
a system of
beliefs or doctrines which are regarded by those who profess that religion as
conducive to their spiritual well-being.
The right to religion itself is
guaranteed under article 25 of the Constitution of India. Article 25 (1)
guarantees it to fold freedom i.e. the freedom of conscience and the freedom to
profess, practice, and propagate religion.
However, the right to propagation only indicates persuasion and exposition
without the element of coercion.
A fine line between a right and duty must be observed in the case of religion.
The case Javed v. State of Haryana is an apt example to corroborate this. In
this case a provision of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 was challenged
where persons having more than two children what is qualified from contesting in
the election for the post of Sarpanch and Panch and Panchayat. It was argued
that according to the personal law of Muslims, a Muslim man had the right to
marry up to 4 women for the procreation of children.
The Supreme Court was straightforward in its decision that the freedom of
religion is not absolute and permits a legislation in the interest of social
welfare and reform further, it was held that the Muslim law permits marrying
four women but does not anywhere mandate it as a duty of every Muslim.
Additionally, the right to contest election for any office in the Panchayat is
neither a fundamental right nor a common law right (it is a statutory right
subject to qualifications and disqualifications prescribed by the law. Under
Article 25(2), it had been observed that promoting social welfare and social
reform shall prevail over religion and social evils in the name of religion.
In a study conducted by Eva Delacroix and Valarie Guillard from Paris Dauphine
University, an attempt was made to define a superstition- superstition consists
in unfounded half beliefs that certain facts (external uncontrollable events or
internal actions) or objects can carry good or bad luck, or the omens of future
positive or negative events.. The term half-belief is used to connote that
bearers of the belief don't entirely believe it or are reluctant to reveal that
How do we decide what is religion and what is superstition? For an atheist, all
religious practices tend to appear like superstitions. Going to a religious
place of worship like going to a temple, or a mosque, a church, or a gurudwara
could be considered superstitious. So how do we distinguish them? Every act has
a certain effect on it, positive or negative. And all acts in the name of
religion are not absolute. They are subject to reasonable restrictions.
Though religion and superstitions seem like two peas in a pod, they must be
differentiated. Firstly, the psychological perspective can aid in distinguishing
them. For example, if 'A'
had a special watch gifted by a loved one, and if it
instills a sense of confidence and curtails anxiety, and if A
wears it to
every important event, say for exams or interviews, it would be associated with
positive effects. But suppose A
had a lucky pen and if A
had scored well in
an exam while using said pen, and it is A's
strong belief that he must use the
pen for every important event in their life and if not it would bring him bad
fortune, a negative effect is associated with this behavior.
superstition cannot merely be decided based on the positive or negative effect
due to varying perspectives, certain phobic behaviors or ritualizing actions
have the ability to metamorphize into sadistic exploits or mental disorders.
Intelligence has no bearing on the capacity of a person to avoid such thinking.
The placebo effect; i.e. strongly believing that something that may help you,
may actually help you, also has a bearing over superstitions.
Religion is a unifying concept, and generally preaches a code of conduct and
good behavior. Superstitions deviate from the divine nature of religion and tend
to equate and validate inhuman practices and attitudes. Religion cannot be
proved or disproved, it is a way of life and the ultimate purpose or goal is
heaven, a positive effect that calls for positive behavior, whereas,
superstitions can be disproved through science and logic. Hence, Religion
must be tolerated but superstitions must be condemned. It is largely from
superstitions that inhuman practices like black magic, human sacrifices, and
other Aghori practices stem. They need to be nipped in the bud to prevent
Legislations related to Superstitions in India
The common assertion is that no legislation can change society unless the
society changes its mindset. Nevertheless, when Raja Ram Mohan Roy had advocated
banning Sati, change did not happen overnight. One of the fundamental reasons
for the success of this movement was due to the inability to prove through any
religious scriptures that the practice was the duty of every widow. There was no
logic or scientific backing to support the wretched practice.
Practices offending the basic welfare of the society should be strongly
castigated. Though IPC does the job to an extent,
the The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other
Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013 and The Karnataka
Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act (RPT
Act) 2017 are stepping stones towards building a fence between superstitions,
religion and the law. However, both legislations need to be amended to secure
The The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and
Black Magic Act (RPT Act) 2017
had taken a step further and had even included
the ability to punish companies involved in said practices and also clearly
stated that the consent of the victim does not constitute a defense. Both of the
Acts have clearly defined what constitutes inhuman practices in their schedules
and what practices are acceptable. Another important feature of this legislation
is that the publication of the final conviction is to be made in the local
newspaper along with the particulars of the convict and the offense committed.
This is a prominent measure to ensure awareness among the society. 
A National anti-superstition legislation with clear definitions as to what
constitutes evil and sinister behavior needs to be created for the best
interests of all the states. Without properly distinguishing between what
exactly constitutes such behavior and simply naming certain acts as acts as
inhuman causes people to be acquitted on technicalities and such ambiguity would
quash the purpose of enacting the legislation in the first place. The present
legislations have also been accused of dilution; still protecting certain
practices by not putting them in the purview of the Act.
Another aspect to consider is that the Act does not propose any preventive
measures other than the duty of a vigilance officer to prevent the contravention
of the Act which again, is ambiguous as to how it should be done. There should
be an active role of the government in promoting anti-superstitious practices as
well as offering counseling to people who have been victims of such practices.
Inhuman practices deliberately done towards children below the age of 14, with
full knowledge of the probability of causing certain permanent damage, should be
punishable with life imprisonment or death penalty based on the merits of the
case. Awareness camps of mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder,
and others should be conducted to help promote education and weaken the taboo of
getting mental help from licensed counsels. Those who do suffer from mental
health issues are usually the ones who are the victims of superstitious and
Several reformatory measures like conducting awareness camps in villages with a
track record of such cases, and ensuring that all victims have access to
healthcare, physical or mental till their recovery, and making it mandatory in
schools to inculcate a healthy discussion and to promote reaching out to certain
authorities in cases they have personally witnessed said practices can go a long
Hence an anti-superstition law if drafted and implemented in the right way could
bring many criminals and conman to the court. Slowly if not immediately, voices
would be heard and particularly women and children would be protected from abuse
emanating from conmen, lack of education, and in some cases, mental disorders.
- AIR 1994 SC 1918
- Vasudev v. Vamanji, ILR 1881 Bom. 80
- Pandey J, Constitutional Law Of India (54th edn, Anand Offset 2017)
- The Constitution of India Art. 25
- Pandey 
- AIR 2003 SC 3057
- Pandey 
- Delacroix, Eva & valérie, Guillard. (2008). Understanding, defining, and
measuring the trait of superstition.
- Foxman P, 'The Psychology Of Superstition' (WebMD, 2020) accessed 26
- Darbinyan, Karen. (2019). Re: What's the difference between superstition
and religion?. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/post/Whats_the_difference_between_superstition_and_religion/5c5c7efdc7d8ab20a547803b/citation/download.
- S.300,302,306 & 307
- The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and
Black Magic Act (RPT Act) 2017, Act no. 46 of 2017