Diktat for social boycott issued by caste panchayats has become a crime punishable with jail term up to seven years and penalty that can extend to Rs five lakh in Maharashtra, a first in the country.
The new law came into force after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, 2015, last month, and it was published in the state Gazette on July 3, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sudhir Shrivastav told PTI.
Under the Act, members of extrajudicial bodies like caste and community councils issuing decrees for social boycott can be punished with imprisonment up to seven years and/or a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
The bill was passed by the state legislature on April 13, 2016 and sent to the Centre for presidential assent.
To ensure speedy justice, the law provides for conclusion of trial within a period of six months from the date of filing of the charge sheet.
Any organisation that delivers a judgment or issues fatwas based on caste, would be viewed as a caste panchayat, even if unregistered, the Act says.
The provisions include compensation to victims if a caste council imposed monetary penalties on them.
An official would be appointed to go into complaints of social boycott, which would include preventing a person from participating in social and religious programmes, festivals, processions, rallies, and from using common institutions like schools, club houses and medical facilities.
Those who support decrees issued by caste panchayats would also be treated as accused, the law says.