Maharashtra heralds a progressive new era with a comprehensive law banning black magic, witchcraft and other superstitious practices coming into effect, officials said Sunday.
Governor K. Sankaranarayanan signed an Ordinance Saturday evening which will curb all these practices, and award stringent punishment for practitioners. Maharashtra is the first state in the country to enact such a law.
The state government is likely to notify the law, which stipulates a maximum sentence of up to seven years in jail for various practices, by Monday.
The move comes five days after the killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, the founder-head of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), which was at the forefront of the movement against these blind and often harmful practices.
Among other things, the new law will ban inhuman practices, human sacrifice, rituals to enable sex selection by pregnant women, and all forms of acts known as 'Jaadu-Tona' in common parlance.
The governor signed the Ordinance after it was drafted and cleared by the state cabinet last Wednesday, a day after Dabholkar's killing in Pune sparked outrage and protests across the state.
The Ordinance has replaced the draft "Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill" 2011, known simply as the 'anti-Black Magic Bill," pending before the legislature.
Under severe pressure for delaying the long-pending legislation aimed at ridding the society of the evils of such practices, the state government adopted the Ordinance route instead of waiting for the next session of legislature in Nagpur, in December.
Dabholkar, 67, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen Aug 20 while on a morning walk in Pune.