CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS ON UNTOUCHABILITY AND ITS PRESENT RELEVANCE UNDER INDIAN CONSTITUTION
Authored By- AMRUTHA KUPPARAJU
Keywords: Untouchability, offence, punishable, not allowed to, article 17.
Abstract:ARTICLE 17 THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: Untouchability is abolished, and its practice is prohibited in any manner. The violation of any disability that results from Untouchability shall be an offense punishable by statute.
Untouchability is abolished, and their practice is prohibited in some manner. The violation of any disability that results from Untouchability shall be an offense punishable by statute.
Neither the Constitution nor the Act specifies untouchability. It refers to a social norm that only because of their birth looks down upon those oppressed groups and makes some prejudice against them on this ground. Their physical touch was seen as polluting others. Such castes called untouchables were not to draw water from the same wells, or to use the pond / tank that the higher castes are using. They were not allowed to enter certain temples, and they suffered from several other handicaps.
The inclusion of this clause into the Constitution reflects the significance the Constituent Assembly assigns to eradicating this evil activity. Article 17 is also an important provision as regards equality before law (Article 14). It guarantees social justice and human integrity, the twin rights that were denied for centuries together to a large section of Indian society.
That right is aimed at private individuals. The essence of untouchability is such that where the State will practice untouchability, it is not possible to conceive. The Supreme Court in People's Union for Democratic Rights v UOI held that whenever a fundamental right is contained in the Arts. 17, 23 or 24 if infringed by a private citizen, the constitutional duty of the State would be to take the required measures to prevent any infringement and to ensure that the right is upheld by that person. Merely because the aggrieved person was willing to defend or enforce his fundamental rights which had been violated, he did not absolve the State from its constitutional obligations.
Article 35 read with Article 17 grants Parliament the authority to create legislation imposing penalties for non-touchability activities. The Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955, was passed by Parliament. It was made more restrictive in 1976, and was renamed 'Civil Rights Defense Act, 1955. It defines 'Civil Right' as 'any right accruing to an individual by virtue of Article 17 of the Constitution's abolition of untouchability.' All offenses under the Act have been made non-compoundable.The Act provides for penalty (1-2 years imprisonment) for preventing any person from accessing any place of public worship or from adoring or denying access to any store, public restaurants , hotels or public entertainment venues or refusing to admit persons to hospitals and refusing to sell goods or render services to any person. Also, it is a crime to offend a member of Scheduled Caste on grounds of untouchability or to advocate untouchability or to justify it on historical, political, religious or other grounds.
In order to prevent the commission of crimes or massacres against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Parliament also enacted the 'Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, 1989.' The Act provides for special courts for the prosecution of offenses under the Act and for the relief and rehabilitation of victims of such offenses. Atrocities committed against a Hindu SC or ST who had converted to another religion may be punished under the Act, if the person is still suffering from mental impairment.
Case Article 17:
So it was asked in State v. Gulab Singh to keep the UP at the Allahabad High Court. Removal of Social Disabilities Act, 1947, ultra vires the Constitution as it deals with an topic reserved for Parliament under Article 35 of the Constitution. The High Court dismissed the claim and held that Article 35 applies to future laws and does not make past laws invalid on the matter.
There is, it should be noted, a fundamental difference between excluding persons from temples open for the purpose of worshiping the Hindu public in general on the ground that they belong to the excluded groups and excluding persons from denominational temples on the ground that they are not objects in the interest of the foundation. The former would be struck by "Article 17 of the Constitution of India," and the latter covered by Article 26.
In 1955 Parliament enacted the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955, in the exercise of the power granted under Article 35. This Act imposed punishment for the practice of intouchability and for the regulation of any resulting disability. However, the penalties given under the 1955 Untouchability (Offences) Act were found to be limited and insufficient. In 1965, the SC's Committee on Untouchability, Economic and Educational Progress was formed to investigate the workings of the Act and make necessary recommendations for its reform.A Bill to amend the Act was introduced in 1972 and passed in 1976, on the advice of the Committee, which renamed the Act as the "Defense of Civil Rights Act, 1955." The word "civil rights" has been described in the amended Act as any right accruing to a individual by virtue of the abolition of intouchability under Article 17 of the Constitution.
The amended Act also made significant changes to existing legislation, namely, all offenses to be treated as non-compoundable and offenses to be punished for summary trial for up to three months; increased punishment for offences; increased negligence on the part of a civil servant in investigating offenses to be punished as an abettor; privately owned places of worship to be brought within his jurisdiction; untouched preaching;