President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2016.
Maharashtra is the first state in the country to formulate a law to punish social boycott. The presidential assent paves the way for the state to strictly enforce the law to deal with the scourge of social boycott with an iron hand.
In a progressive state like Maharashtra, which has a glorious legacy of social reforms in recent times had witnessed an increasing number of incidents of social boycott and violence at the orders of caste panchayats. To overcome legal lacunae and ineffectiveness of earlier laws, state legislature had passed Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2016 in April 2016. The purpose of new law is to root out oppression carried out in name of social boycott by parallel justice delivery system (kangaroo court) by citing age old traditions, caste and religious practices.
Salient features of the Bill
The Bill terms social boycott as a crime and says anybody indulging in it would face imprisonment maximum upto 3 years and a fine of 1 lakh rupees or both. It disallows social boycott of any individual or groups by caste panchayats or groups of individuals or gavki or by its members or by social or economically influential persons.
Persons involved in practice of social boycott for reasons like rituals of worship, inter-caste marriage, any connection to lifestyle, dress or vocation will face stringent punishment. The offence registered under the act will be congnizable and bailable. It will be tried by a judicial magistrate of the first class.
The victim of social boycott or any member of the victim’s family can file a complaint either to police or directly to the magistrate. The bill has indicated speedy trial within six months of filing chargesheet in such cases in order to ensure time-bound results.
The Bill mandates state government to recruit social boycott prohibition officers to ensure monitoring and to detect offences and assist the magistrate and police officers in tackling such cases.