Among other things, this Bill generally aims to correct the balance in regards to witch doctors and other forest prophets who employ displays of spiritual power in a bid to con gullible people.
Lawyer Anant Grover says, "There is also a rational basis to say that certain practices which are known to be not really working and so called Godmen are taking advantage of poor people, they need to be stopped. There is a similar act nationally called the Drug and Magic Remedies Act. Unfortunately that Act, doesn't actually stop the practices, it only addresses advertisements."
Further into the article, we find the following:
"..There is so much overlap between people's fears of black magic and the common rituals that people adhere to as a matter of faith. Some believe that this Bill, if it were enforced, then even someone like Sai Baba and the act of producing 'bhooti' (which means 'glories') would be construed to be propagation of black magic. Samant [a critic of the Bill] says, 'If Sai Baba comes to Mumbai and performs something like this, he will be booked.'
"Grover though says, 'If Sai Baba were to deceive and defraud, I think even he should be punished, which is the intention of this Bill, though it is very imprecisely drafted. But that is not the point. In the eyes of his followers, they believe that he is actually doing something miraculous and he may not be defrauding them, then I do not think there is any harm in it. But the moment he starts curing diseases, tries to come into the field of medical treatment, which actually causes harm, then he should be punishable.'"
Though the online article displays a picture of Shirdi Sai Baba, we regard this as a mistake since the Shirdi saint is no longer alive (having passed away in 1918) and that the reference is clearly directed towards Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh.
We are encouraged by this development. It means that when the Bill is enacted, Sai Baba will be de facto banned from the state of Maharashtra. Although the Bill has been criticised for being too broad and for not properly defining the limits of "tantra", "aghora" and "black magic", and has been the subject of a request for reconsideration pending proper legal advice, there appears to be a consensus that godmen such as Sathya Sai Baba - who freely produces vibhuti ash and claims to heal people of their diseases - will be punished with imprisonment between six months to seven years or a fine of up to 50,000 rupees if they try to strut their stuff.
I wonder when a trip to Mumbai will be on the cards when Maharashtrian sevaks deign to invite their guru over there soon, what say? ;-)
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