Maharashtra has become the first State in the country to enact a law against social boycott from caste panchayats. President Pranab Mukherjee has given his nod to implement the Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill in the State.
The bill had been cleared in last year’s Budget Session with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis claiming that it would deal with the scourge of social boycott with an ‘iron hand’. As per the procedure, the bill was forwarded by the Central government to the President for his assent.
A senior officer from the State Home Department said Maharashtra has received approval from the Centre to implement the Act all over the State. Despite repeated reminders from the State to the Centre, the clearance of the Bill was inordinately delayed. An officer said, “The bill involved four ministries including the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. We answered all queries satisfactorily and have now we have received the go-ahead.”
The State answered questions raised by the Scheduled Tribes development department regarding overlapping of certain conditions in the bill with existing laws. With growing instances of boycotts of individuals or families by caste panchayats, the need to enact a special law was echoed in the State in 2010. The bill makes provision for punishment of up to three years in jail and/or a fine up to ₹1 lakh. The case has to be fast tracked within six months from the date of filing the charge sheet. The fine charged from accused will be partially or fully handed over to the victim.
The Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS), which led the movement demanding the law, expressed satisfaction over the enactment of the bill. Krushna Chandgude, an activist with MANS, said, “Years of struggle have finally been paid off. We campaigned for the Act and were successful in convincing the political class that the issue of social boycott by caste panchayats was not only a matter of law and order but also social justice.” Mr. Chandgude slain rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar has also campaigned against social boycott by caste panchayats in Maharashtra and the bill turning in to an Act was a tribute to the fighting spirit of Dr. Dabholkar.
Avinash Patil, executive president, MANS, said, “Now that the Act has been cleared by the President, MANS will run a special campaign for the implementation of it at the district level.”