Meaning of untouchability under article 17

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Untouchability refers to a common practice where in a particular class of people or people from a specific caste are discriminated on certain grounds. Such discrimination include not touching them, not touching the utensils or any other things touched by them, not allowing them to certain places such as temples, etc., A very good example of untouchability could be, A higher caste people such as Kshatriya or Brahmins would not dine with a lower caste people as it is believed that the higher caste people would become impure even if the shadow of a lower caste person touches them and purity would be regained by dipping into holy waters of Ganga. Such practice was followed in the entire country before the constitution of India was formed. Untouchability was practiced during the early British period and people tolerated this. As they were not prepared to involve in social contrives and they were not bothered to reforms themselves as well. This was also practiced in the later British period, due to the western liberal education and also because no one was ready to fight against it. People were too scared to stand for themselves. However, The constitution of India was constituted in the year 1950 and this eradicated the practice of untouchability. The constitution of India clearly states that no person should be discriminated based on caste, religion, sex, race, etc., Everyone is equal before law. It also guaranteed all the citizens for equality of statues and opportunity and it has recognised the principle of fraternity assuring the dignity of the individuals. The implementation of the constitution of India was the first blow against caste system and abolition of untouchability once and for all.


The constitution of India dealt with untouchability through a two line action. (i) abolition of untouchability and (ii) through promoting the interests of untouchables. Article 17 of the Indian constitution of India knocks down the entire problem of untouchability. It states that, “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 law” The main idea of this article is to try to eradicated the practice of untouchability and to liberate the society from blind traditions. In State of Karnataka v. Appa Bala Ingale, the court held that, the disabilities to which Dalits were subjected, have been outlawed and subjecting them to those disabilities would be violative of the Part III and IV of the Constitution. Though this article was implemented to put an end to this practice, it does not mean that such practice is stopped immediately. It indicates that who ever practices it will be dealt with as an offence punishable in accordance with the law.

The phrase " untouchability" has neither been described in Article 17 of the Constitution nor beneath the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955. A single decide of the Mysore High Court in Deveraja has rightly held that untouchability in the Act refers back to the social disabilities historically imposed on positive instructions of human beings by purpose of their start in sure castes and would now not consist of an instigation of social boycott via cause of the behaviour of positive persons. The phrase "Harijan " prime facie refers to an untouchable. Untouchability is a quintessential a part of caste system and is not based totally on mensrea. The time period " untouchability" under Article 17 has been used beneath the inverted comas. It is because the challenge rely of Article 17 isn't always untouchability in its literal or grammatical sense, however the exercise as it had, advanced historically in this united states and that the word "untouchability" is used in that sense below this Article. As human beings nonetheless do now not like to combine with a 'Dom' or 'Chamar'

as freely as they would do with a Brahmin or Kshatriya. The term "untouchability" become held to include the act of preventing positive instructions of Hindus who had been once called "Depressed instructions" from coming into a public temple. Not simplest this but the J&K High Courts in Janki Prasad held, " wherein a person is refused admission in a temple on the floor of his being a Harijan, the refusal is presumed to be on the floor of untouchability." Article 17, first off, makes a declaration for the abolition of untouchability and prohibits its practice in any shape. Secondly it proclaims' that the enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability is to be an offence punishable in accordance with the law. The importance of the announcement of Article 17 abolishing untouchability and forbidding its practice in any form need to not be underestimated. Even with none helping law under the later part of the Article, abolition of untouchability and prohibition against its practice in any form has the effect of no longer only invalidating all legal guidelines, customs, usages, practices and so forth. Directly or in a roundabout way recognising or encouraging the exercise of untouchability however even additionally any sales, contracts or other non-public transactions having the impact of such reputation or encouragement.

The second a part of Article 17 definitely publicises that the enforcement of any incapacity bobbing up out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law and it does now not make the enforcement, ipso - facto, punishable underneath the Article. All that, it does is to ponder regulation making for maintaining such practice punishable as an offence. So the later a part of this Article have to be study with Article 35 of the Constitution which enjoins the Parliament to make suitable laws punishing as offence each act of individuals or businesses which tantamount to applying incapacity arising out of untouchability. The Parliament, as a consequence, within the workout of its energy, so conferred by Article 35, enacted the Untouchability Offences Act, 1955. Which become later named as Protection of civil Rights Act, 1955. Article 17 is a potential law and legal guidelines in force inside the kingdom before the graduation of the Constitution are mainly stored, as much as the quantity they're now not repugnant of this Article, and are to maintain till altered, repealed or changed or amended by the Parliament. Article 17 fulfils, at least in law, the dream of Gandhiji who worked tough for the eradication of the social evil of untouchability. The Act of 1955, as amended in 1976 has given a realistic and powerful form to the prohibition of untouchability enshrined inside the Constitution.[1]


Forbidden from eating with higher caste people.

Separate utensils for lower caste people.

Forbidden from entering into pilgrimages and temples.

No access to certain places int he village such as wells, ponds, etc.,

Segregation of lower caste people in schools.

Separate burial grounds.

Forbidden from wearing sandals and holding umbrellas in front of higher caste people.


Even though the constitution of India implemented such laws many years ago, the practice of untouchability is still practised in many parts of the country. There still exists a feeling of superiority of caste and birth. Such evil practice is deeply rooted in Hindu society that even after 72 years of Independence, this practice is still continuing. The survey conducted by the Indian Human Development Survey conducted by the national council of Applied economic research[2] shows that,

1. Around 27 percent of the Indian families despite everything practice untouchability

2. Since, Brahmins please the highest point of the position diagram, 52 percent of them despite everything practice distance

3. Just 5.34 percent of Indian relationships are between rank.

4. It is generally across the board in Madhya Pradesh with 53 percent rehearsing unapproachability. Madhya Pradesh is trailed by Himachal Pradesh with 50 percent. Chhattisgarh goes ahead the third situation with 48 percent, Rajasthan and Bihar with 47 percent, Uttar Pradesh with 43 percent, and Uttarakhand with 40 percent

5. Around 15 percent of Scheduled Caste and 22 percent of Scheduled Tribe respondents admitted to the training

6. Consistently two Dalits are ambushed; each day two Dalits are killed, and two Dalit homes are burnt.

7. The review additionally shows that pretty much every third Hindu practices unapproachability (33-35%)

8. In excess of 160 million individuals in India are considered 'Unapproachable'

9. Insights aggregated by India's National Crime Records Bureau demonstrate that in the year 2000, around 25,455 wrongdoings were carried out against Dalits.


In order to break the barriers of caste discrimination, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam trained Dalits as priests. According to this report, almost 200 Dalits were trained with Vedic rituals and practices. A school has been set up for lower caste people in Uttar Pradesh as they were denied education in their villages. The ministry of social justice and empowerment enacted the PCR act, 1955 which prescribes punishment for the enforcement of any disability arising from the preaching and practice of untouchability. The government is providing central assistance, awareness and incentives to those who are into inter-caste marriages, where in one of the spouses is a member of the scheduled caste. This is done to ensure social integration and harmony. The parliament end ted Prohibition of employment as manual scavengers and their rehabilitation act, 2013 to provide for prohibition of employment as manual scavengers and rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their families.


Rajasthan High Court in Jai Singh v. Union of India held that Article 17 of the Constitution is similar to the 13 Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America which abolished slavery.

The Supreme Court of India in People's Union for Democrate Rights v. Union of India held that the Fundamental Right under Article 17 of the Constitution is available against private individuals also and it is the Constitutional duty of the state to take necessary steps and ensure that this Fundamental Right is not violated.

The Allahabad High Court in State v. Gulab Singh punished the Hindus as they compelled the bridegroom of the Scheduled Caste to alight from the dola-palki while passing through the village.

Madras High Court in P.S.Charya and Others v. State of Madras held that Article 17 is prospective legislation and the laws in force in the state before the commencement of the Constitution are specifically saved upto the extent they are not

In Janki Parsad and Others v. State of J&K, Supreme Court held, "Where a person is refused admission in a temple on the ground of his being a Harijan, the refusal is to be presumed to be on the ground of untouchability.

In Devarajjah V Padmannae Mysore High Court held that " untouchability" is not to be understood in its literal and grammatical sense but to be understood as the practice as it has developed historically in this country.

In Bangalore W.C. and Silk Mills V Mysore State the Mysore High court held that imposition of "untouchability"... has no relation to the causes which regulate certain classes of people beyond the pale of Caste estimate.