This the first law that treats social boycott as serious offence.
Presidential assent has been given last week to the Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, and is on its way for its implementation.
What does the law brings and aims?
The new law in Maharashtra does not allows social boycott in the name of caste, community, religion, rituals or customs. It has been told by the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis that a “progressive state like Maharashtra” cannot allow social evils in the array of caste panchayat diktats or rituals.
As per the Law, what amounts to social boycott?
If any individual or a group of individuals tries to prevent or obstruct another person or group of persons from observing any social or religions custom or usage or ceremony, or from taking part in a social, religious or community function, assembly, congregation, meeting or procession, such act amounts to social boycott. Also, if the freedom of individuals is being challenged in the name of jati panchayats, religion, customs, or denying them in any way the right to practise a profession of their choice.
Discrimination done based on morality, political inclination or sexuality also qualifies as social boycott. As does barring children from playing in a particular space, or disallowing access to crematoria, burial grounds, community halls or educational institutions with mala fide intentions.
What does Freedom Includes under this Law?
Freedom under this law includes the freedom to marry outside one’s caste, visit places of worship, wear the type of clothes that one aspires and use any specific language of choice. Discrimination done based on morality, political inclination or sexuality also qualifies as social boycott.
How does the Act seek to prevent social boycott?
A Collector or District Magistrate, on receiving information of the likelihood of unlawful assembly for imposition of social boycott can, through an order, prohibit the assembly.
Any person found to have committed the crime of social boycott will attract a imprisonment for the time period up to three years or a fine up to Rs 1 lakh, or both.
Abetment by an individual or group of individuals will attract the same duration of punishment. The crime of social boycott is cognisable and bailable, and will be tried by a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate First Class. The trail would have to be completed within a period of six months from the date of filing the chargesheet, to make sure that the justice is on time without any delay.
Purpose of enacting such law in Maharashtra:
The law had become an important need after extreme and growing incidents of atrocities on individuals by jati panchayats or gavkis wielding extra-judicial powers. The major number of incidents were reported from the districts of Raigad, Ratnagiri and Nashik; and the highest number of cases of social boycott were promted by inter-caste marriages.
38 such cases In 2013-14, Raigad were reported. Prevailing laws are frequently challenged in the court, or loopholes are used to escape punishment. The new Act facilitates the framing of changes under Indian Penal Code Sections 34, 120-A, 120-B, 149, 153-A, 383 to 389, and 511 if there is concrete evidence to substantiate an accusation of social boycott.