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Tackling social boycott legally

Tackling social boycott legally

Maharashtra, a state with a rich legacy of social reforms, has once again held the baton to reject social evils and stated that any social boycott would now be dealt with an iron hand. After receiving assent from Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, would no more allow social evils in the garb of caste panchayat diktats or rituals. The first law of its kind disallows social boycott in the name of caste, community, religion, rituals or customs. As per the provisions made under this new law, if any individual or group tries to prevent or obstruct another member or group from observing any social or religious custom or usage or ceremony, or from taking part in a social, religious or community function, assembly, congregation, meeting or procession- the act amounts to social boycott. Under this Law, no individual or group can challenge the freedom of individuals in the name of 'caste' panchayats, religion, customs, or deny them the right to practice a profession of their choice. Freedom, in this case, includes the freedom to marry outside one's caste, visit places of worship, wear clothes of one's choice and use any specific language. Discrimination on the basis of morality, political inclination or sexuality also qualifies as a social boycott. It also includes stopping children from playing in a particular space or disallowing access to crematoria, burial grounds, community halls or educational institutions with mala fide intentions. A Collector or District Magistrate, on receiving information of the likelihood of unlawful assembly for an imposition of social boycott can, by order, prohibit the assembly. Conviction of the offence of social boycott will attract a prison term of up to three years or a fine up to Rs 1 lakh, or both.

Abetment by an individual or group will invite the same punishment. The offence of social boycott is cognizable and bailable and would be tried by a Metropolitan or a First Class Judicial Magistrate. To ensure speedy justice, the trial would have to be completed within a period of six months from the date of filing the charge-sheet. The decision, however, was a reaction to pressures from growing incidents of atrocities on individuals by jati panchayats or gavkis wielding extra-judicial powers. The new Act also facilitates the framing of charges 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. Nevertheless, taking serious notes of prevailing atrocities inflicted on people in the name of tradition, caste, and community, the Maharashtra government had done a commendable job with enacting the new Law. The atrocities inflicted by a handful of people in the name of jaati panchayats or groups citing caste and community traditions should never be tolerated especially if it questions the dignity of a human being.


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