Maharashtra has become the first State in the country to enact a law against social boycott from caste panchayats.
President Pranab Mukherjee has given his nod to implement the Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill in the State.
The bill was passed by State Assembly. As per the procedure, the bill was forwarded by the Central government to the President for his assent.
With growing instances of boycotts of individuals or families by caste panchayats, the need to enact a special law was echoed in the State.
The bill provides for prohibition of social boycott of a person or group of persons, including their family members, by an individual or a group like caste panchayat.
The bill states that social boycott is prohibited and its commission shall be an offence, the maximum punishment for which will be seven years in prison or fine up to Rs. 5 lakh or both.
It also states that maximum punishment for extending aid in relation to the commission of offence will be three years or Rs. 3 lakh or both.
As per the bill, the victim or any member of the victim’s family may file a complaint either through the police or directly to the magistrate. To ensure speedy justice, the trial shall be completed within a period of six months from the date of filing of the charge sheet.
The Act provides for 15 examples of social boycott, including expulsion from the community, stopping an individual from taking part in a family function, or religious, social community-based activities or ceremonies, stopping children from playing in certain areas, or disallowing access to educational institutions, burial grounds, crematoria, and other public conveniences, among others.
Social Boycott Prohibition Officers will be appointed to detect the commission of offences, to assist the magistrate and police officers in discharge of their duties under the Act.
The burden of proving that no offence under this Act have been committed, shall lie on the accused.
Recently, eleven families from the Telugu Madelwar Parit community lodged the first FIR under the Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016 against 17 members of the caste council for boycotting them for varied reasons.