The Excessive Court docket of Madras not too long ago made essential remarks about Article 17 of the Indian Structure. It stated that untouchability can’t be outlined in slender phrases and must be interpreted to incorporate the assorted methods wherein ritual practices result in the perpetuation of hierarchies, social ostracization, and exclusion. The remarks had been made by Justice SM Subramaniam.
What was the case?
Senior Advocate Elephant G Rajendran had filed a case within the Madras Excessive Court docket in opposition to the Madras Bar Affiliation. He claimed that his son had been denied entry to ingesting water on the Madras Bar Affiliation Corridor. He additionally alleged that the affiliation was elitist because it was attempting to make getting membership troublesome for abnormal practising attorneys. Thus, he argued, the Bar Affiliation was partaking in caste discrimination.
What did the courtroom say?
The courtroom emphasised a broad studying of Article 17 of the Indian Structure which prohibits untouchability in all its varieties. Delivering its verdict, the courtroom stated that every one practices that bore resemblance to untouchability can be stated to fall below the purview of the Article and be deemed unacceptable. Any discriminatory follow having its origin in exclusionary concepts of hierarchical subordination is prohibited by the Structure.
Though the courtroom interpreted the actions of the Madras Bar Affiliation as discriminatory, it termed them as class discrimination and never caste discrimination as initially claimed. It’s med class discrimination when based mostly on financial standing, one other aspect of untouchability.
The courtroom additionally famous that on the time of the drafting of Article 17, the Constituent Meeting had not allowed an modification that decreased the scope of untouchability to solely faith or caste. Thus, the courtroom concluded that the unique intent of the Structure makers was to not scale back the scope of untouchability or to interpret it in a restricted sense. The article, subsequently, needs to be interpreted in a broader sense.
The courtroom additionally noticed the Structure as a transformative system whose provisions and articles have to be interpreted to provide impact to its liberating philosophy. The Structure have to be seen as a doc that helps the marginalized overcome the hierarchies pervading society and safe social justice.
The courtroom got here down closely on the Bar Affiliation. It known as out its bye-laws for enabling class discrimination by making it troublesome for abnormal attorneys to develop into members. Therefore, the courtroom handed an order to grant membership with none discrimination.
What’s Article 17 of the Structure of India?
Article 17 of the Structure forbids anybody to follow untouchability and makes it punishable by legislation.
This text was debated within the Constituent Meeting on 29 November 1948 the place it was unanimously supported and adopted on the identical day. Untouchability continues to be undefined each within the Structure in addition to the involved Act. Though there have been calls to outline the scope of “untouchability” they had been rejected and the ultimate textual content of the Article reads as follows:
“Untouchability is abolished and its follow in any kind is forbidden. The enforcement of any incapacity arising out of Untouchability shall be an offence punishable following legislation.”
What are the origins of untouchability and Article 17?
The discriminatory caste system of India is the principle motive Article 17 was inserted within the Structure. It’s broadly understood as a social follow that relegated sure people to an inferior standing in society purely on account of their delivery. It perpetuates discrimination by denying the category of individuals deemed untouchable some primary rights.
Traditionally, the members of the decrease castes had been considered as “untouchables” and thus had been subjected to exploitative and discriminatory practices equivalent to not being allowed to attract water from the wells of higher caste communities, or being compelled to do free labour.