Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to ban village councils or Kangaroo courts from imposing social boycotts.
The Kangaroo courts, which are unelected village councils comprising men of a particular clan or caste, are infamous for ordering social boycotts.
They have ordered boycotts like banishing individuals and families from the community, denying access to temples, wells, markets to lower caste community, branding women as witches, and, in some case, ordering gang rapes or killings as punishment.
Last month, the state passed a law against old practice of village councils. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said:
“The Act was required against the backdrop of atrocities inflicted on people in the name of tradition, caste and community. It is necessary to prohibit social boycotts as a matter of social reform in the interest of public welfare.”
Under the law, social boycotts are declared as a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison, a fine of Rs. 5 lakh or both.
In 2011, Supreme Court described kangaroo courts as illegal.
Human rights activists want that all states should follow Maharashtra’s example and enact similar laws to end such brutal practices.
“The law will help check caste crimes to some extent. It empowers lower-caste people and it empowers human rights organisations, as it gives us a tool with which to fight against village panchayats,” said Irfan Engineer, director of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai.