Article 17 of the Indian Constitution
ARTICLE 17 :
Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of Untouchability shall be an offense punishable in accordance with the law.
There is no explanation regarding Untouchability neither in Constitution nor in the Act, as to what would be considered as Untouchability and what not. It refers to a practice in a society that looks down upon certain depressed classes solely on account of their birth and discriminates against them on this basis. Touching them is considered like polluting others. Such castes which were called untouchables were subject to many restrictions like they were not allowed to draw water from wells, were not allowed to enter temples, and many more restrictions.
To eradicate this practice, a provision has been included in Constitution. Article 17 also focuses on equality before the law (Article 14). It assures social justice and dignity of man, the twin privileges which were denied to a vast section of the Indian society for centuries together.
In People’s Union for Democratic Rights v UOI, the Supreme Court held that in cases fundamental rights as provided in Arts. 17, 23, or 24 was being violated the state should perform such actions as would be necessary to interdict such violation and the person should be assured respect of the right. On the basis of the sole reason that person could himself protect or enforce his invaded fundamental rights, it did not allow the State to be free from its constitutional obligations
Article 35 read with Article 17 talks about Parliament’s power to frame laws related to punishment in case untouchability is practiced. The Parliament framed the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955. In 1976, it was framed as more strict in nature and was known as ‘The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955. It provided about civil rights. It says that ‘Civil Right’ as ‘any right accruing to a person by reason of the abolition of untouchability by Article 17 of the Constitution.’ All offenses are to be considered non-compoundable. The Act provides for punishment (1-2 years imprisonment) in case any person is prevented from entering any place of worship or denying access to any shop, public restaurants, hotels, or places of public entertainment, or refusal regarding admission of such persons to hospitals and refuse to sell goods or to render services. Furthermore, in case any member of Scheduled Caste is insulted on the ground of untouchability or preaching untouchability or justifying it on historical, philosophical, religious, or other grounds is to be considered a crime.
The Parliament also framed the ‘Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.’ in order to prevent the commission of offenses related to members of Scheduled Caste or Schedule Tribe. Special Court to be established for the trial of offenses and provisions framed for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offenses. In case the victim converted from Hindu ST or SC to another religion then also proceedings may be initiated under this Act if the victim is still suffering from a social disability.
In the State of Karnataka v Appa Balu Ingale, the Supreme Court expressed its concern about the continuance of the practice of untouchability and was of the view that it was an indirect form of slavery and only an extension of the caste system.
Indian Constitution ( Bare Act)
Article 18 of the Indian Constitution
ARTICLE 18 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION:
1. Abolition of titles:
(1) No title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State.
(2) No citizen of India shall accept any title from any foreign State.
(3) No person who is not a citizen of India shall, while he holds any office of profit or trust under the State, accept without the consent of the President any title from any foreign State.
(4) No person holding any office of profit or trust under the State shall, without the consent of the President, accept any present, emolument, or office of any kind from or under any foreign State.
Article 18(1) says about the abolition of all titles. The State is prohibited to confer titles on anybody irrespective of the fact whether he or she is a citizen or a non-citizen, subject to the exception of Military and academic distinctions So an educational institution like a university is permitted to provide a title or honour to a man of merit.
Clause (2) prohibits Indian citizens from acceptance of titles from foreign states. Clause (3) prohibits a person not being a citizen of India, but who holds any office of profit or trust under the State, regarding the acceptance of any title from the foreign state with the President’s consent.
Clause (4) provides that no person who holds any office of profit or trust, shall, without President’s consent, accept any present or any kind from or under any foreign State. Clauses (3) and (4) have been added to assure that noncitizens should be loyal to the state.
A ‘title’ refers to an addition to a name, as an appendage (either prefix or suffix e.g. Sir, Nawab, Maharaja, etc.).. This would be a hindrance in the violation of fundamental rights related to equality.
However, the recent titles like “Bharat Ratana”, “Padma Vibhushan”, “Padma Shri”, etc. (introduced in 1954) is not to be considered as a violation of Article 18 as they merely denote State recognition for work done by citizens in the various fields of activity. Furthermore, Article 18 does not secure any fundamental right rather it imposes a restriction on executive and legislative power.
B. LANDMARK CASE:
In Balaji Raghavan vs UOI, the Supreme Court highlighted not only the validity of civilian honors but criticized the government for not creating a restraint in awarding these. It is of view that the national awards are not for to be added as the title to a name and for those who have already added the same as an addition to their name their awards should be forfeited. In the above-mentioned case, the petitioners challenged the conferment of the awards on the ground that it was violative of Article 18(1). They were of the opinion that the word ‘title’ should be considered in a broader sense so as to give effect to the legislative intent as military and academic distinctions are the only exceptions to this. The contention of the Union government (Respondents) was that national awards are not nobility titles and so should not be used as suffixes or prefixes, not being prohibited by Article 18.
The court observed that during British rule, the power to confer titles was being abused for imperialistic purposes and for corrupting public life. In past years the conferment of these awards with no guidelines in this regard and a strict mechanism of selection is like to provide increment to nepotism, favoritism, patronage, and even corruption. So a strict mechanism should be provided with respect to those awards and a maximum number of such awards should be limited to fifty per year. “A high-level committee is to be established whose members are to be appointed by Prime Minister in consultation with President to ensure that awards are only for deserving candidates. Justice Kuldip Singh in his separate but concurring judgment said that the committee may comprise of Speaker of Lok Sabha and . the Chief Justice of India.
Indian Constitution ( Bare Act)
Indian Constitution ( Bare Act)
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