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India: Social Rights movement - Cabinet nod to social boycott Bill

This news is about new bill passed in Maharshtra, India to abolish social ostracism among communities in rural area of Maharastra state.

News URL: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/right-to-dignity-supreme-...

Right to dignity supreme, says CM fadnavis: Cabinet nod to social boycott Bill

In a step that can usher in major social reforms, the state government on Tuesday approved a legislation to tackle social ostracism in the name of caste, creed, community and rituals. The Maharashtra cabinet gave its nod to bring in the legislation — Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill — in the Budget Session, which begins from March 8 in Mumbai.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took the initiative to evolve a stringent law that can go a long way to address the social menace still prevalent in many parts of the state.

Fadnavis said, “The objective of the Bill is to root out evil, outdated and unconstitutional practices of caste panchayat, ‘gavaki’ and community panchayat. There is adequate provision in the legislation to enforce severe punishment on individuals/ groups/community/panchayats who take the law in their hands and subject people to inhuman atrocities in the name of rituals, caste or community.”

While asserting that right to human dignity is supreme and above everything, Fadnavis said, “This legislation is essential to restore the values of the system where caste/community barriers cannot be detrimental to human dignity.”

After taking charge of the state almost a year ago, Fadnavis had advocated this legislation that attracted voices and recommendations from various sections of the society. The draft proposal, after incorporating suggestions from many quarters, will be debated and mooted for passage in both Assembly and Council in the Budget Session.

“If any individual or group in an organised manner commits acts like denying members of his community access to places of worship, interferes in inter-caste marriages or compels him/her on dress code, footwear, shall be deemed to have imposed social boycott,” the Bill says. In the name of traditions or rituals, the panchayat, it states, cannot subject individuals or groups to rules that are unconstitutional.
Over the years, there have been several cases reported from villages in the state of powerful community panchayats declaring social boycott against individuals for marrying outside their caste. There have been instances where village communities have enforced dress codes barring women from wearing jeans, or have banned people from places of worship.

Under the new Bill, the punishment for such acts will be categorised as per the nature of the crime and can include a prison sentence up to seven years and fine up to Rs 5 lakh. According to the Bill, preventing individuals/groups from interacting in society or making attempts to socially isolate them would invite strict punishment as it would be an act of crime.

Similarly, it would not allow any community or panchayat to discriminate against children from going to any school, temple or medical institutions.

Prohibiting people from visiting burial grounds or other institutions used by a community would also be considered a serious offence.
The Bill provides the victims to file a complaint before the magistrate and the verdict should be out within six months.

A special officer for tackling and pursuing social boycott cases would be recruited in every district.

Thats a really good step taken towards a step for change

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