Anti-superstition Bill passed by Maharashtra Assembly

DabholkarNarendra Dabholkar was murdered in Pune on August 21.

After keeping it in cold storage for 18 years, the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly passed the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill on Friday during the winter session at Nagpur. An ordinance enforcing its provisions was passed by the state a day after anti-superstition crusader Dr Narendra Dabholkar was murdered in Pune on August 21.

While the state government projected the passage of the Bill as a progressive step, activists including Shyam Manav, who along with Dabholkar put pressure on the government all these years, said the Bill in its present form was a watered-down version.

The original Bill that was first approved by the Assembly in December 2005, but had lapsed in 2009 after a new government was elected, gave a third person (apart from the victim) the right to lodge a complaint. However, this clause has been amended to state that only a member of the victim's family can lodge a complaint apart from the victim himself/ herself. This amendment was introduced after the Opposition strongly argued that the legislation could be misused for blackmailing, otherwise.

As demanded by the Opposition, a "saving clause" specifically listing out all those practices which are not included in the ambit of the Bill, was incorporated. Their contention was that the Bill should not infringe upon the personal religious freedom of an individual. All changes demanded by the Opposition were incorporated in the final Bill, but they were angry over the manner in which the Bill was passed. The Opposition wanted more time to discuss the Bill and was upset it was passed in the absence of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, deputy CM Ajit Pawar and the Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse.

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