Maharashtra Assembly 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,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, replying to a debate on the bill.
“In this bill, we have treated indulging in social boycott as a crime,” he said.
“I am happy that the House is approving this progressive law unanimously,” Fadnavis said.
Maharashtra cabinet had on March 1 approved the draft Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill, 2016.
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.
Maharashtra is set to become the first state in the country to enact a law against social boycott.
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.
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.