ARTICLE 17: ABOLITION OF UNTOUCHABILITY

Article 17:

Abolition of Untouchability: “Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of “Untouchability” shall be an offence punishable in accordance with the law.

INTRODUCTION

A crucial component of the Right to Equality is Article 17. It offers social justice in addition to equality. This article resembles the 13th Amendment of the American Constitution in certain ways, which outlawed slavery in all of its manifestations. To put an end to the caste system, untouchability, discrimination, and other types of practises that have persisted in our society for centuries. That is why article 17 was included in the Indian constitution. We are all aware that the chairman of the drafting committee was Babasaheb Ambedkar, a Dalit. So that he could fully comprehend the anguish of the lower caste. This Article provides protection not only against the state, but also against private individuals. The state is required by law to take the necessary steps to prevent violations of these rights. (In the case of People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. UOI)

Article 17 is one of the Constitution’s absolute articles, but it is not the only one. That is, practising untouchability in any form is illegal. That is, if you practise untouchability, there is only punishment.

Absolute Nature: You must have noticed that all other rights have exceptions, whereas this article does not. That is, you may not violate it under any circumstances. The provisions of Article 15(2) are also capable of preventing untouchability in the Constitution.

What is Untouchability?

 The Indian Constitution and no act passed by Parliament contain no definition of untouchability. However, in one of its decisions, the Mysore High Court clarified its meaning. According to the court, Not in a literal or grammatical sense, but rather in the sense of “practise as it had developed historically in the country,” is the subject of Article 17 untouchable. It alludes to the societal limitations imposed on particular classes of people as a result of their birth into particular castes. As a result, it excludes things like a few people’s social isolation or their exclusion from religious services. Some works will be treated as the observance of untouchability due to the numerous verdicts and instructions provided by the court, for which a provision of punishment has also been made.

Important Cases related to Article 17

People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1982

The Supreme Court ruled that the state must intervene straight away if any private individual violates the rights guaranteed by Article 17 of the Constitution. This is done to make sure that the underprivileged SC and ST group of untouchables won’t have to go to court to enforce their basic rights.

State of Karnataka v. Appa Balu Ingale, AIR 1993

The respondent in this case was found guilty by the lower courts, but the high court cleared him of the accusation of preventing members of lower castes from using the recently drilled bore well. The high court declared him innocent. Four Harijans testified in opposition to the respondent. As a result, the Supreme Court decided to accept the judgement of the lower courts.

Safai Karamchari Andolan and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. 

A writ under Article 32 was filed by the Petitioners praying for the enforcement of Manual Scavengers’ and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 by the Central Government, State Governments and Union Territories.

Suhasini Baban Kate (Sou.) v. State of Maharashtra 

insulting someone based on their untouchability The complainant was a woman in her 30s. Her credit history is flawless. The youngest of her three sons, who were all under one year old, was a wife. The claimed incident is said to have occurred on the spur of the moment, and the accused statements were likely made as a result of the abrupt rise in temper. In addition to those overt claims, the complainant made further statements. But she spent three days in custody. Given the seriousness of the offence, it was deemed unreasonable to send her to jail; instead, even though the mandatory time was only one month, she may very likely be freed under the terms of the probation she had previously completed in the interests of justice.

The Sabarimala Case 

The dispute surrounding a recent Supreme Court ruling serves as an example of the importance of deciding religious freedom in India on a social and legal level. We must foretell this event and hint at the findings of the following pages in order to highlight the huge social ramifications of the Supreme Court’s approach. The Hindu temple located in Kerala’s south district is the subject of the case that is more commonly referred to as the Sabarimala case. Prior to their temple devotion, pilgrims to Sabarimala traditionally conduct vratham, a forty-one day period of discipline, fasting, celibacy, and cleanliness.

In addition, a lot of pilgrims endure a difficult, sometimes 60-kilometer trek on foot through wilderness to reach the Sabarimala temple. Although some have made claims regarding the health and wellbeing of women, religion is the main justification for the restriction. Lord Ayyappa, the Deity connected to the temple, is thought to be a devoted celibate or Brahmachari. It is implied that women’s presence at the temple would be offensive to the deity. Others bring up the topic of menstrual impurity or the potential for female distraction and interference with male devotees’ vratham rituals. Early in 2019, two ladies disobeyed the long-standing prohibition and entered the Sabarimala temple.

The 2018 court decision that deemed the admittance ban on women to be unconstitutional and mandated that the municipal police defend all women who undertook pilgrimages served as the impetus for their acts. In the state of Kerala, there was fierce opposition to the Sabarimala ruling. Violence has emerged during protests and protests. Numerous deaths were linked to the disturbances, and numerous buses, police cars, establishments, and offices suffered damage or were completely destroyed. Throughout order to ensure public safety, the administration closed all schools and public transportation in the state.

The bigger uproar caused by the verdict quickly grew beyond the state and reached a level that could only be described as national indignation. The nation’s most prominent politicians and commentators voiced their opinions on the matter, there were demonstrations in both Delhi and Mumbai, and news outlets spent countless hours covering the story. I don’t want to oversimplify the complexities that led to the Sabarimala verdict’s aftermath unrest. But among them, there is a perception that the purportedly secular government has failed to protect the religious sentiments of the millions of Hindus who live in India. As a result, a holy shrine has changed into a scene of conflict. Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State Of Kerala  is the title of the infamous case.

The Kerala High Court upheld the ban on women in 1991, ruling that it was constitutional and “in keeping with the norm existent from time immemorial. When the matter was once more brought up in 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the earlier decision. By a majority of 4:1, the Court declared the prohibition on women’s enrolment unlawful. The moral freedom, equity, and development ideals were the main topics of judgments. However, in order to reach their judgments about the presence of Lord Ayyappa’s devotees, the judges had to ask several ostensibly straightforward questions.

The followers were required to demonstrate both the necessity of the contested practise and their denominational status in order to pass the court’s jurisprudential criteria. Both of these topics have a lengthy and intricate context that will be covered in this article. The Sabarimala case demonstrates the evolution of these contentious legal procedures, the test of religious connection, and the test of fundamental customs. In addition, the public reaction to the case highlights the significance of ruling on religious freedom in India as well as the connections between many other domains, including politics, law, and the court.

The Sabarimala case’s facts and circumstances were thoroughly described in the introduction, and the focus of this assessment is only on the claim that Lord Ayyappa’s followers are members of a religion. It goes without saying that the Sabarimala issue sparked a great deal of public interest. The decision serves as yet another example of how the Court’s views on religious groups have evolved and what they mean today.

In addition, the judgment’s author, Justice Ramaswamy, emphasised the significance of institutions that are multifaith in general, saying that congregation and assimilation of all parts of society, particularly in the place of worship, provides a sense of fellowship guaranteed in the Preamble of the Constitution and fosters brotherhood for social unity, peace, and integration. In the Sabarimala case, the respondents had to come to grips with the fact that both Muslims and Christians were making pilgrimages and visiting the Sabarimala shrine as worshippers. The fair inclusion of pilgrims of all faiths in the pilgrimage is a distinctive characteristic of pilgrimage, it was stated.

CONCLUSION

What constitutes a religious attachment and what practises are required for religion are the two main themes that drove the development of Indian legal doctrine. When a party claims that it has misused its freedom to govern its religious affairs, the test of religious identity is applied. There was a time in Indian history when the legal and judicial system of the nation was supported, ruled, and dominated by religion. Now, things are quite the opposite. In the secular India of today, land law regulates the extent of religion in society, and the judiciary decides what the laws pertaining to religion say, imply, and demand.

The Supreme Court’s position clarifies the characteristics of Indian secularism in both theory and practise. By doing this, it enables us to more accurately situate India within the larger discussion of international secularism and religious freedom. This study looked at the methods used by the Indian Supreme Court to articulate its views on religious freedom. The higher courts’ rulings in religious disputes of diverse natures and kinds typically exhibit an attitude of objectivity and impartiality. Few and far between, there were some anomalies that occasionally pointed to the presence of devoted judges or those who were affected by particular political and religious views.

REFERENCES

Books

Constitutional Law Of India-  Dr. J.N. Pandey

Introduction to the Constitution Of India- Durga Das Basu

Constitution Of India- V.N. Shukla

Citations

People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1982

State of Karnataka v. Appa Balu Ingale, AIR 1993

Safai Karamchari Andolan and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. 

Suhasini Baban Kate (Sou.) v. State of Maharashtra 1985 (1) Bom CR 409

Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State Of Kerala 28 September, 2018

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.

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The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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