NEW DELHI: After being slammed by the Supreme Court for “dragging its feet” over the issue of illegal migration in the state, the Assam government has now received flak from the Guwahati High Court over the delay in the witch-hunting law.

The Assam Home Secretary was ordered by the Guwahati High Court on Wednesday to appear before the court in person on April 6 and apprise it of the measures taken by the state government to keep the evil practice of “witch-hunting” in the state in check.

A division bench of Chief Justice (acting) K. Sreedhar Rao and Justice Prasanta Kumar Saikia was visibly irked by the delay on the part of the state government to enact a law which would prevent witch-hunting in the state and passed the order of appearing before the court by the state Home Secretary.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) filed in 2013 by an advocate, Rajeeb Kalita seeking action from the state government to end this social evil. The petitioner, in an interview with The Telegraph (India) informed that last year on November 3, the Assam government had submitted in court that they would take effective steps within a month, including the enactment of a law,in order to tackle the menace of witch-hunting.

However, Kalita said that the government failed to obey the court orders and after five months from the date of the order only managed to prepare a draft of the law. In fact, even that draft hasn’t been submitted to the court, instead, the government only verbally informed the court about the draft.

On March 23, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rakibul Hussain had apprised the state Assembly about the draft of the anti-witch hunting bill in accordance with the High Court directive, while replying on behalf of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who also holds charge of the home department, to a query of BJP legislator Prasanta Phukan.

Hussain had also informed that necessary modifications to the draft had been done in a meeting presided over by the Commissioner and Secretary of the Home department recently."With approval from the chief minister, the draft was sent to other departments like social welfare and personnel and law for their comments," he had said.

The social evil of witch hunting is quite prevalent in the state of Assam and has resulted in hundreds of killings in the state. There has been longstanding demand to end this practice from various sections of the society with organisations demanding a stringent law for the same.

According to data available with the state government, 82 persons lost their lives in incidents of witch-hunting in Assam between 2009 and February this year. Police arrested 567 persons for their alleged involvement in witch-hunting in this period. Altogether 98 cases have been registered in connection with these killings or attempted killings.