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Karnataka govt approves bill against black magic

india Updated: Sep 27, 2017 23:40 IST
Karnataka,Black magic,Siddaramaiah

(Representative image)

The Karnataka government on Wednesday approved the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017, four years after the idea was supported by chief minister Siddaramaiah.

The bill, which is set to be tabled in the upcoming assembly session in November, classifies 16 practices as inhuman, including assaulting a person on the pretext of exorcism; claiming to change the sex of a foetus in the womb; ‘betthale seve’, where women are paraded naked; ‘urulu seve’, where people are made to roll over on leaves with leftover food; and ‘Sidi’, where people are hung from trees using hooks drilled into their backs.

The move to regulate such practices came in the backdrop of the Maharashtra government passing a similar Act in 2013.

Various drafts, including one by the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), were under consideration since 2013, and were scrutinised by the Law Commission of Karnataka and a law department committee.

However, the version approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday has one significant departure from those drafts — it no longer has the word superstition in the title. Additionally, a clarification in the bill exempts vaastu from its purview.

Speaking to HT, rationalist Narendra Nayak hailed the move. “It is to be welcomed because something is better than nothing,” he said.

Nayak clarified that it was wrong to call the bill anti-superstition “because it only regulates some practices”.

“Even though such [a] legislation cannot totally rid the society of superstitions, it will go some way to prevent exploitation of gullible people. Superstition can be eradicated from society only [through] proper education [and] teaching children to develop a scientific temper and spirit of enquiry from a young age,” he added. Alok Prasanna Kumar, a lawyer who was part of the NLSIU team that put out the initial draft, said the bill had stuck to the draft and only made some changes in the interest of clarity.

“The substance of the bill has remained the same. However, the scope has been made clearer,” he said. Provisions of the NLSIU draft, especially the classification of vaastu as an exploitative practice that had to be banned, had caused much controversy.

The current bill has clarified that this practice will be exempt from its scope. Kumar said the government could have decided on exempting vaastu because it was not possible to criminalise it. “You cannot legislate beliefs,” Kumar said.

“If a person wishes to believe in certain things, the state cannot forcefully stop them from doing so,” he added.

Nayak, on the other hand, said this was the reason the current bill could not be called anti-superstition. “When these are superstitious practices, why exempt them?” he asked.

The other big departure from previous drafts is that the bill proposes that a vigilance officer will be charged with overseeing its implementation, instead of an anti-superstition authority as had been mooted in earlier drafts.

First Published: Sep 27, 2017 23:40 IST