In a significant move, the Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday unanimously approved the Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill, which seeks to crack down on extra-judicial bodies like caste and community panchayats.
"There was a demand that existing laws were inadequate to deal with social boycott cases and a new legislation was needed. In this bill, we have treated indulging in social boycott as a crime," Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, replying to a debate on the bill.
Maharashtra cabinet had on March 1 approved the draft Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill, 2016. With the passage of this bill, Maharashtra has now become the first state in India to enact law against social boycott.
Here are the key provisions of the newly enacted law:
- The law prohibits social boycott of a person or group of persons, including their family members, by an individual or a group like caste panchayat.
- The maximum punishment for the offence 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.
- 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.
- 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.