Siddaramaiah receives ‘model legislation’ from CSSEIP of NLSIU
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said that the government would work towards tabling the proposed Bill on anti-superstitious practices in the winter session of the legislature at Belgaum.
Speaking after receiving a “model legislation” on controlling and eradicating harmful superstitious practices prepared by the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP), National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, he said that the Law Department was working on various aspects of the issue.
The model legislation by CSSEIP was prepared after extensive rounds of consultations with experts and it has clauses that speak of both penalisation and mechanisms to create awareness. It proposes the setting up of Karnataka Anti-Superstition Authority at the State-level and vigilance committees on superstitious practices at district levels for prevention and control of superstitious practices and protection of those exposed to their ill-effects.
The “model bill” contains a definition of superstitious practices as those that “cause grave physical or mental harm, financial or sexual exploitation, or offend human dignity of a person or group of persons” by invoking a purported supernatural power.
It lists a set of 13 practices as “cognisable” offences that attract punishment ranging from imprisonment of between one and five years or fine. In the case of human sacrifice, it specifies life imprisonment or death penalty as punishment.
It also criminalises practices such “maata”, “bettale seve” and “pankti bheda”. Even though the “model bill” does not specifically bring practices such as Vaastu, astrology or numerology as the policy note prepared by a panel of CSSEIP prior to the framing of the “model bill” had proposed, it states that “predictions that result in harm caused such as stigmatisation of a person or severe financial loss” should be categorised as offences.
Penal provisions apart, the State authority and district vigilance committees proposed will be constituted by the government and civil society members who will address the harmful effects of superstition.
The authority will be responsible for a number of tasks such as the scrutiny of curriculum to assist in the spreading of scientific temper and facilitation of research on the effects of superstitious practices.
The district vigilance committees will look into individual complaints of offences under the law.
S. Japhet, director of CSSEIP, said that the unlike the Maharashtra Ordinance, which only penalises specific acts, the “model bill” includes a broad spectrum of “comprehensive yet tightly worded definition of superstitious practices” that are harmful.