Ranchi: Jharkhand will set up fast-track courts in five districts to expedite cases of witchcraft, an official said on Wednesday.

“The fast-track courts will come up in Ranchi, West Singhbhum, Khuti, Palamau and Simdega districts, where maximum such cases were registered, to ensue punishment to those who branded women as witches and later killed some of them,” the official told IANS.

The state cabinet gave approval for the courts on Tuesday, he added. In Jharkhand, 40 to 50 women are branded as witches on an average every year and killed. Since the creation of the state in November 2000, more than 700 women have been killed in this fashion.

The Jharkhand government formulated an anti-witchcraft law in 2001 and set up a special investigation team to look into these killings. Social workers here say the 2001 law is extremely weak.

“The move to set up fast-track courts is good but there is a need to make the law more stringent. The 2001 law is weak,” social worker and former Jharkhand Women Commission member Vasvi told IANS.

“The law provides for no punishment for ‘ojhas’ (sorcerers) who instigate people to kill women. There should be a witchcraft prohibition centre in each district. Witchcraft cases should be registered in police stations separately and more fast-track courts set up for speedy trials,” she added.

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