At the receiving end of public anger over the murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, the state Cabinet has been forced to decide on issuing an ordinance to enact the long-pending anti-superstition bill, which makes many superstitious practices punishable.
At Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, several ministers felt that a strong message had to be sent to right-wing outfits that have been opposing the bill, which has been stuck in legislature since 2003, said sources. Public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal demanded for the ordinance and was backed by others.
Taking immediate steps to enact the law would be a fitting tribute to the anti-superstition crusader and would also quash any feeling that Dabholkar’s killing was a setback to the anti-superstition campaign, the ministers said.
On Wednesday, the government acted swiftly as hours after the Cabinet decision, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar signed the draft ordinance. RD Shinde, secretary of social justice department, said the ordinance would be sent to the governor for approval on Thursday morning. The department expects the ordinance to be issued within a couple of days.
Social justice minister Shivajirao Moghe said, “The revised draft of the bill was sanctioned by the state Cabinet this June. We were supposed to bring the bill in the monsoon session, but resistance from Warkari sect stalled it.”
The ordinance will have to be ratified by the legislature within six months, or the government will have to reissue it. The government, however, is going to have a tough time as the BJP-Shiv Sena combine has objected to several provisions in the bill.
Calling it a face-saving exercise after facing flak for the murder, state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said the proposed law should be debated in the legislature first.
Abhay Vartak, spokesperson of Sanatan Sanstha, said the outfit would continue to oppose the bill. “We have got the provisions checked by some retired high court judges who say the law will not stand in court,” he said.
Moghe said objections raised by Opposition parties and others would be considered during debate on the bill in the winter session of legislature in December.