With months left in its tenure, the Congress government in Karnataka on Wednesday moved a step closer to enact a law to combat unscientific and superstitious practices in the state.
The state Cabinet, headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, on Wednesday cleared a draft anti-superstition law — “The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017”.
Addressing the media following the Cabinet meeting, Law Minister T B Jayachandra said the Bill has been “approved by the state Cabinet and will be tabled in the next session of the legislature”.
The proposed law would be a diluted version of an original Bill that had proposed a ban on all forms of unscientific practices. That Bill, however, was dropped after it met with resistance from various political and religious quarters.
Some of the proposals under the 2016 Bill that raised the hackles of religious leaders and political parties was the proposal to ban practices such as carrying of swamijis (religious leaders) in palanquins, worshipping at the feet of religious leaders, and Made Snana, a practice popular in Dakshina Kannada where Dalits have to roll on food left over by upper caste people.
Law Minister Jayachandra said that the draft Bill cleared by the Cabinet will carry a list of practices that would be allowed, and ones that will be controlled or prohibited. Pradakshina, yatras, parikramas performed at religious places will not come under the purview of the proposed law, along with vaastu and astrology, the minister said.
The prohibited practices will be those that violate human dignity, he said.
The anti-superstition law for Karnataka has been in the making since 2013, when a Congress-led government assumed office and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asked an expert panel at National Law School of India to draft a model law. A draft law – “The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2016”, modelled on the Maharashtra anti-superstition law — was proposed last year.
But in July 2016 the Bill was sent for a review to a Cabinet sub-committee, headed by Revenue Minister Kagodu Thimappa, in what was perceived to be a sign of the government developing cold feet over the introduction of the law as demanded by rationalists and progressive thinkers.
The demand for an anti-superstition Bill in the state gained currency after the murder of rationalist and Kannada literary researcher M M Kalburgi in Dharwad on August 30, 2015.