Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis pushes for social boycott law against parallel justice system

Mumbai: Social boycott can now cost you Rs 5 lakh or a seven-year jail term. The home department has completed the final draft of the proposed Prevention of Social boycott Act 2015 which is expected to be passed as an ordinance by next month.

Devendra Fadnavis

“We are working on the final draft of the law which should be completed in the next 15 days. Once the draft is approved we will bring the law by the way of ordinance in month or two,” said KP Bakshi, additional chief secretary (home).

The law which is believed to be the brainchild of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis aims at preventing social discrimination or boycott by extra-judicial bodies such as caste panchayats or ‘gavaki’. The fine amount will be given to victims as assistance. The Act is also likely to propose the concept of retributive justice where social punishments comprise directing the accused to sweep an area, clean public latrines, serve orphanages, donate blood or arrange social functions.

“The main aim is to crack down on the parallel justice system in Maharashtra, which frowns at inter-caste marriages, change in social practices or even people’s choice of clothes,” said a senior officer.

According to the bill, any person who individually or in an organised criminal manner commits acts like denying any member/members of his community access to places of worship and compelling him or her to wear or not to wear a specific type of clothing or footwear, shall be deemed to have imposed social boycott or social discrimination. Acts like compelling anyone to speak or not to speak a particular language, obstructing access to any place used for charitable, religious, educational, medical or public purposes, or from getting benefit under charitable or wakf bodies, denying anyone right to marriage, funeral or rituals, or social and business relations with other members, may also be covered.

However, this is not the first time that a law like this has been proposed. Until 1960, the state had the Bombay Prevention of Excommunication Act, 1949, which covered most aspects of the proposed law. However, in 1960, acting on an appeal, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional and the act became defunct.

It is believed that in places like Satara, Ahmad Nagar, Nandurburg, Raigad and several districts of Konkan a parallel justice system based on caste has existed for thousands of years. In 2013, a pregnant girl from the Gosavi community, who had married a Dalit, was killed by her father, who was being hounded by his community members for his daughter’s decision to exercise her choice.

Similarly, one Santosh Jadhav was ostracised by his Kunbi community in 2005 for defying his diktat against contesting for the sarpanch’s post at Harihareshwar in Raigad. Social reformer Asghar Ali Engineer who took on the Syedna – the Dawoodi Bohra community’s high priest, was also ostracised.

Punishment for Social boycott

Seven years jail term or Rs 5 lakh or both.

The act is also likely to propose the concept of retributive justice with social punishments like directing the accused to sweep the area, clean public latrines, serve orphanages, donate blood or arrange social functions.

What the Act says?

According to the bill, any person who individually or in an organised criminal manner commits acts like denying any member/members of his community access to places of worship and compelling him or her to wear or not to wear a specific type of clothing or footwear, shall be deemed to have imposed social boycott or social discrimination