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Maharashtra to be the first state to enact law against social boycott

Maharashtra will be the first state in the country to enact a law against social boycott of individuals or families by caste panchayats. A draft of the said act called as the ‘Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, 2015’ which was published on the state government’s website on Wednesday has termed any action of social boycott as crime.

Maharashtra in recent times has witnessed an increased number of incidents of social boycott and violence at the orders of seniors in the caste panchayats, for not adhering to their rules. Slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar too had picked up the issue before his murder in Pune. A number of activists and academics have been demanding an act against the foul practices of caste panchayats for years.

This won’t be the first time that the state is taking a lead in formulating such acts. Maharashtra was also the first in the country to enact anti superstition law. The act has recommended seven years of imprisonment or fine of Rs. 5 lakh or both if the accused is proven guilty. As per the act, the trial shall be completed within a period of six months from the date of filing of the charge sheet.

The act defines “Caste Panchayat” as a Committee or a body formed by a group of persons belonging to any community, whether registered or not, which functions within the community to regulate various practices in the same community, controls personal and social behaviour of any member and collectively resolves or decides any disputes amongst their members including their families, by issuing oral or written dictums. Any offence punishable under this Act shall be cognizable and bailable and triable by a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class, as the case may be.

It has also made the provision of ‘Social Boycott Prohibition Officer’ to detect the commission of offences under the provisions of this Act. The officer will also assist magistrate and police officers to discharge their duties.

Krushna Chandgude, one of the prominent anti-caste panchayat activists in Maharashtra expressed pleasure over the government’s action. “It is a positive step from the government and we will be sending our suggestions to the draft. One of the major suggestions would be to make these crimes non-bailable. Hopefully we will succeed in it,” he told The Hindu. Advocate Asim Sarode who had submitted his own draft to formulate an act, said that the government’s step is encouraging to activists working in the field

Comments:

1. This law will not serve any purpose and there are many such laws already in place without any means of enforcement in real life.. Caste based Panchayat groups are not identified set of groups or registered entities recognized by the governments.. There are many such non identified groups in many villages which propagates caste based narrow minded backward thinking policies..In such scenarios, there are no means for anyone to go and file cases against caste based discrimination and prove as there wont be any supporting evidence to prove the same and hold some unrecognised group responsible..Our Caste based reservations policy itself is an institutionalized way caste based discrimination.

2. After decades of independence India has not freed herself from shackles of so called untouchability. It is grave situation and present law is testimony to this. This law should be made even harder by making it non-bailable.

3. While intentions are undoubtedly good, it would be interesting to see how this system would work in practice. It will NOT be easy to prosecute an unregistered group of people for ‘social’ boycott (never mind the contentious definition of social boycott). It could also be seen as intrusion in personal lives of people. State has NO business in dictating whom I choose to be friends with, whom I choose to marry with or which shops I trust and which groups I boycott. What will be even more interesting where does this leave ‘Fatwa issuing mosques’ and ‘Church groups’ [registered groups] that at times declare person, group of persons and even certain practices as ‘sinful’ and ask their followers to boycott such entities!

4. Also if housing societies play foul in letting out flats , selling , buying etc by caste , religion , region , food habits specific it should also be construed as against law of land. This will bring end of discrimination , an unjustified one , bring an atmosphere of cosmopolitan , slowly but surely bring down caste and religious segregation

Courtesy The Hindu

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