The move to bring forth legislation against superstitious practices that prevail across Karnataka, largely in some of the southern and coastal districts, has been put on hold by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Nevertheless, preparations are in progress to draft a legislation that may see the light of day in the near future.

What started off in right earnest, largely to promote a rational environment and thinking, has now taken a political turn with the Chief Minister being caught in the crossfire, with even a section of the Congressmen ranged against the legislation. Mr. Siddaramaiah has quickly acted in putting to rest the political animosity that the proposed enactment was generating by stating that the bill will not be tabled in the coming session of the Karnataka Legislature scheduled to be held in Belgaum from November 25.

Critics of the Chief Minister largely view his latest statement as an attempt to buy time and win peace for the present since there is also a section which has been vehemently demanding that the government of the day bring forth a legislation which can curb superstitious practices. The passage of the proposed bill on the floor of the two Houses of the legislature and thereafter receiving the assent of the Governor is expected to be a long-drawn affair. However, the incumbent Chief Minister can take the credit for making a beginning in fostering a rational temperament.

‘Only a draft’

Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T.B. Jayachandra told The Hindu that it is for the Department of Social Welfare to make the first move in preparing a detailed note and thereafter place it before the State Cabinet for approval. It should be noted that the proposed bill has raised much dust even before those in the government who are engaged in drafting the bill have commenced their work. At present, the government is in possession of only a draft made over to it by a section (in favour of the legislation) which volunteered to incorporate some valid points under the aegis of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

Differences

If the State unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has said that it is sternly opposed to the bill and that it will not allow it to be tabled in the legislature, the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee G. Parameshwara has said the bill has not been discussed in the party forum. In other words, he has said the bill can be taken up by the government only after it is cleared by the party. It is another matter that the Chief Minister and the KPCC president do not see eye to eye on various issues, and the proposed superstitious practices legislation is one among them.

An ordinance recently promulgated by the Governor of Maharashtra pertaining to certain superstitious practices prevailing in that State could be described as a forerunner to the attempt in Karnataka. The ordinance replaced a proposed bill in the legislature of that State called the ‘Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill’. The anti-black magic bill has been pending for over two years in the Maharashtra legislature.

The trigger

It was the visit of Mr. Siddaramaiah to the Chamarajanagar district adjoining Mysore which is believed to have set afloat the need for a legislation against black magic and such practices, given the fact that it is rampant in certain pockets of Chamarajanagar. There are, however, several enactments, including in Karnataka, where some of the superstitious practices are banned. All that is now required is a strict enforcement of the law and a new bill, if at all, may be required only to add to the existing strength.

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