social boycott

In this article, Karan Singh of JGLS discusses the new Maharashtra Social Boycott Act.


In July 2017 President Pranab Mukherjee gives his assent for the Maharashtra Prohibition Of People From Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016. This law prohibits social boycott in the name of caste, community, religion, rituals or customs. Chief Minister of Maharashtra stated that Maharashtra cannot allow social evils in the garb of caste panchayat rituals, Maharashtra is a progressive state.

Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to bring a new law against social boycott and making it a crime. The movement started when the Anti-superstition activist and Maharashtra’s most vocal rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar (65) was shot dead. News of the killing sparked protests in Pune. They demanded that the state should pass the anti superstition bill that Dr Dabholkar had been campaigning for. The Bill was pending with the central government but the President gave the assent on June 20, 2017. Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) executive president Avinash Patil said the President has signed the law following which the state published it in the Gazette.

The new law will propose action against extra judicial bodies like panchayats.[1]

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History Of Social Boycott

Maharashtra social boycott act is not the first law in India. In 1949, Bombay enacted a law against excommunication but it was struck down by Supreme Court in 1962 due to the Dawoodi Bohra community successfully argues that it violated the community’s constitutional right to manage its own religious affairs. [2]

In November 1949 the province’s legislature passed the Bombay Prevention of Excommunication Act. But the group Dawoodi Bohra challenged the law and filed a petition against the law saying that it violates fundamental rights. The judges, though not unanimously, agreed that powers of excommunication was vested in him to keep the denomination together, and allowed the petition

The Dawoodi Bohras have a history of legal fights over the excommunication bill. In 1977, commission headed by justice Narender Nathwani was set up to find out the truth of allegation of social boycott were true or not. The commission said that the complaints were not unfounded. The commission’s findings were ignored by successive governments, but a group of reformists, led by the late Islamic scholar and Bohra reformist Asghar Ali Engineer, went to court with the judge’s findings.

In Mumbai, last case of social boycott was in 2008 when Dawoodi Bohra family complaint that they were excommunicated for daring to file a complaint against a mosque trust which owned the premises from where they ran a shop. The family was boycotted and had stopped getting invitations to weddings and other functions in the community. The children were debarred from the religious school run by the trust and the elders were stopped from entering the local mosque. To, end this situation, the family was asked to withdraw the property case. The social boycott was ended but the family is facing the litigation.[3]

What crime are under social boycott new law

If any group or individual tries to obstruct or stops another member or group from observing any social or religious custom or usage or ceremony or from taking part in a social, religious or community function, assembly, the act amounts to social boycott. Citizens have the right to freedom which is defined in this act.

  • The freedom of individuals in the name of jati panchayats, religion, customs or denying them the right to practise a profession of their choice.
  • Freedom in this case includes freedom to marry outside one’s caste, visit places of worship, wear clothes of one’s choice and use any specific language.
  • Discrimination on the basis of morality, political inclination or sexuality also qualifies as social boycott.
  • As does stopping children from playing in a particular space, or disallowing access to crematoria, burial grounds, community halls or educational institutions.

It even makes it an offence to create cultural obstacles by forcing people to wear a particular type of clothing or use a particular language.

What is the punishment given under this act?

Under the act, Social Boycott is a penal offence punishable with a fine upto 3 lakhs and imprisonment upto 7 years or both. If a district magistrate receives any information of the likelihood of unlawful assembly for imposition of social boycott can prohibits the assembly. Abetment by an individual or group will have the same punishment.  To ensure speedy justice, trial would have to be completed within a period of six months from the date of filing the chargesheet.[4]

Cases of Social Boycott in India

First case of this act is registred in Shivaji Park police station under the Maharashtra Prohibition of people from Social Boycott  (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016. The act was introduced recently by the President of India Pranab Mukherjee, disallows social boycott in the name of case, community, religion, rituals, or customs. Nine people were booked under this act when a complaint was registered by Prabhakar Bhosale, member of Akhil Maharashtra Ghadshi Community, when he and his family was boycotted after they failed to attend the funeral of his cousin. The said community consists of families in the profession of playing musical instruments at wedding ceremonies. The complainant claims that he and his family members have been boycotted as they failed to attend the funeral of his cousin. A case under Section 5 of the new act has been registered and investigations are underway.[5]

Four years ago, a case of honour killing came into light which received strong public support against social boycott. A 22-year-old Pramila Khumbharkar who belonged to a nomadic tribe and had married to Deepak Kamble from a Schedule Caste was killed allegedly by her father when she was nine month pregnant. This is one of the so many cases of social boycott.

In Roha, there have been 22 cases of social boycott since 2010.[6]

In 2012, Rahul Yelange the mountaineer conquered Mt. Everest but could not escape a social boycott in his village because his wife wore jeans and did not wear a mangalsutra. Special Legislature is required to prohibit social discrimination. But in this case nothing could be done as there was no law related to social boycott. But now the new law is there in Maharashtra, noone can force anyone to wear a particular type or clothes or use a particular type of language. It’s up to you what you want to wear and speak.

Hours after the first case of social boycott came the 2nd case was filed under the Social Boycott Act, complaint against illicit caste tribunals was lodged

Key Features of Bill

  • The Bill will term social boycott as a crime and any individual committing would face imprisonment for 3 years and a fine of 3 lakhs rupees or both.
  • No group, individual, panchayats or gavki or by its members can perform social boycott on the basis of caste, religion etc.
  • Any individual involved in practice of social boycott for reasons like rituals of worship, inter-caste marriage, any connection to lifestyle, dress or vocation will face
  • The offence will be tried by a judicial magistrate of the first class. This offence under the act is cognizable and bailable.
  • The victim of social boycott or any family member of the victim can file a complain either to police or to the Magistrate directly.
  • Speedy trial is also introduced in the bill which will provide speedy trial within six months of filing chargesheet in such cases in order to ensure time bound
  • Government will recruit social boycott prohibition officers to ensure monitoring and to detect offences and assist the magistrate and police officers in tackling such cases.


Social Boycott bill is a step taken by the government to end discrimination or boycotting someone on the ground of caste, religion etc. Since 1827 different bill related to social boycotting is introduced but because of some reasons they are removed. The Bombay Regulation II of 1827, the Caste Disabilities Removal Act 1850, the Bombay Prevention of Ex- Communication Act, 1949. These acts were introduced in the hope to end social boycott. But nothing changed. Now, as the new law came in there is a hope to end the social boycotting.

This act will stop and prevent crimes like honour killing. This act should be introduced in every State of India especially where villages and tribal areas are more. STOP SOCIAL BOYCOTT!









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