For ages, the caste system has caused social oppression in Indian society. Even though the system was to divide labour, it quickly devolved into a system that encouraged discrimination between the upper and lower castes.
Hindu society’s customary laws prohibited untouchables from using public locations, such as lakes, pools, playgrounds, and wells. They were forbidden from visiting temples and religious sites and using highways, vehicles, schools, and other facilities.
Their social prejudice progressed to the point that even shadows were regarded as potential contaminants, and therefore they were labelled as untouchables. So, life for scheduled castes was a living hell.
The Indian Constitution has many clauses, and many acts are introduced that guarantee protection to untouchables—the Protection of Civil Rights Act is one of them. Let us study more about the Civil Rights Act in the further article.
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What are civil rights as per the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955?
After many years of hardship, civil rights were introduced in India, which at first did not change, but things began to change with the flow of time. Civil Rights in India include:
- Equality before the law,
- Freedom of speech,
- Freedom of expression—respecting religious and cultural freedom,
- Freedom of assembly, and
- Freedom of religion
On May 8, 1955, the Protection of Civil Rights Act came into effect. Section 2 of the Act defines civil rights.
“Civil rights” are defined as any right conferred to a person as a result of Article 17 of the Constitution abolishing “untouchability.”
The Act establishes the penalties for propagating and performing “untouchability,” the enforcement of any impairments that may arise due to it, and other relevant issues. So when Civil Rights Act was first enacted, it had little impact on society; however, it began to make a difference as time passed.
A prohibition on Scheduled Castes entering temples is an example to consider carefully. Those who encourage such activities and discrimination should get prosecuted to prevent them from continuing to do so.
From time to time, the State Government also issued numerous rules and directions to help Scheduled Castes people overcome various obstacles and problems.
- The Protection of Human Rights Act of 1955 is a “special law” that applies in important sectors where the Constitutional amendment of equality needs to be changed to address the reality of utter disparity.
- The Indian Constitution guarantees equality under the law from Article 14 to Article 18.
- Article 17 guarantees the removal of untouchability, a significant in terms of civil rights. It is a criminal infraction, and several revisions have been made to the law.
- The Parliament passed the Untouchability Act of 1955, later revised by the Untouchability Amendment and Miscellaneous Provision Bill of 1972.
What is meant by the Indian Civil Rights Act?
Indian Civil Rights Act is a federal statute. Indian tribal administrations are unable to adopt laws that infringe on individual rights. It is analogous to the US Constitution, which protects personal liberty against federal government activities.
Indian Civil Rights Act grants the following rights:
- The right to free expression and the freedom to practise one’s religion.
- Unreasonable searches and seizures are prohibited.
- Freedom from prosecution for the same offence more than once.
- Without due process of law, there is no equal protection of the law or freedom of liberty or property.
- Excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel or unusual penalties are prohibited.
The Indian Civil Rights Act guarantees freedom of religion and does not preclude a section from establishing its religion. Indian Civil Rights Act ensures that a defendant has the right to approach a lawyer at his/her own expense.
What are the features of the Protection of Civil Rights Act?
- The terms of the Amendment Act work to remove untouchability.
- All untouchability offences previously deemed within the court’s jurisdiction will be regarded as non-offences that can get tried immediately if the penalty does not surpass three months in prison.
- The penalty for untouchability offences increased to include a fine and jail time, and on repetition of the offence, the penalty will increase.
- The punishment for the third and consecutive violations can range from one year in prison, a fine of Rs 500 to 2 years in prison and a fine of Rs 1000.
- In addition to any other kind of penalties, courts have the authority to revoke or suspend the licences of any professions, trade, or occupation in which the offence was committed for as long as they deem proper.
- One of the essential features of the Protection of Civil Rights Act is that it punishes public workers who knowingly display negligence in examining any offence.
- The Act calls for surveys and investigations to determine where untouchability is prevalent and the formation of committees to carry out the Act’s provisions.
- Privately held places of worship and lands and apartments are permitted for use as public places of worship by their owners.
- The preaching of untouchability—directly and indirectly, and its justification has been constituted a basis for committing a crime.
- The act of forcing someone to sweep has also been deemed illegal.
- The state governments now have the authority to levy fines on residents in any area concerned and assist the commission in committing untouchability offences.
- One of the highlights is that even the Central Government would work closely with State Government to carry out the Act’s provisions.
- The Indian government has also requested that state governments to give statistics and other information on the number of complaints they handled under this Act and specific information on the efforts they took to ensure the proper implementation of the Act’s provisions.
Provision of civil rights protection
Because many untouchables felt deprived and alienated due to the untouchability system, the idea of equality for untouchability was introduced under the Protection of Civil Rights Act. This measure only addresses the punitive clauses that protect untouchables from all forms of discrimination.
There are certain safeguards for the preservation of civil rights. The portions that deal with punishment are as follows:
- Section 3 states that anyone who prevents anyone from entering public places of worship or performing religious services will get imprisonment of not less than 1 month and not more than 6 months with a fine of not less than 100 rupees and not more than 500 rupees.
- Section 4 states the punishment by a term of imprisonment of not less than 1 month and not more than 6 months, and a fine of not less than 1000 rupees, for anyone:
- who, on the grounds of untouchability, forces any person to enter any shop, public restaurant, hotel, or place of entertainment, or
- who restrains using utensils and other items managed to keep in Dharamshala, public restaurants, or using any stream, river, tanks, etc.
- Section 5 states that anyone who refuses to enter a public hospital, dispensary, educational institution, or dormitory will get sentenced to a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 6 months in prison, as well as a penalty of not less than 100 rupees but not more than 500 rupees.
- Section 6 states that anyone who refuses to sell goods or deliver services to anyone on the grounds of untouchability would get sentenced to a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 6 months in prison and with a fine.
- Section 7 states that anyone who prevents anyone from enjoying their rights under Article 17 or molests, injures, annoys, insults, or attempts to insult anyone as a result of exercising their rights connected to the elimination of untouchability is subject to imprisonment or a fine.
It also states that anyone who refused to allow another person to use or inhabit a house or land for employment or business or engage in personal, professional, or business relationships, would be punished with jail and a fine.
- Section 7A states the punishment for anyone who forces others to be subjected to slavery, exercise sweeping, or force anyone to remove the skin of animals or perform other jobs similar to that on the grounds of untouchability.
The punishment includes a sentence of not less than 3 months and not more than 6 months in prison with a fine of not less than 100 rupees and not more than 500 rupees.
Importance of the provisions of the Protection of Civil Rights Act
With the rise in the exercise of untouchability, it was essential to make some changes. These provisions have gone a long way toward removing caste divisions, even though it is still exercised in some places.
The practice of untouchability led the lower caste to feel lonely, degraded and violated, and individuals from higher castes treated them inhumanely, negatively influencing society. It has now come to an end with the passage of the Protection of Civil Rights Act.
The act’s rules narrowed the disparity between the top and lower castes. It gives lower-caste persons the ability to use their rights and lead a normal life alongside everyone else.
The Protection of Civil Rights Act gradually overcame the big obstacles to carrying out the deed more precisely and effectively. Its application has improved the situation of the untouchables and other lower castes.
The act succeeded in narrowing the gap between upper and lower castes to some extent. But, untouchability is still prevalent in underdeveloped places. Even though it affects society, the Protection of Civil Rights Act is a difficult piece of legislation for people to embrace. The majority of people nowadays do not compare themselves to others on the grounds of caste, but rather on class.
Even though Article 17 of the Constitution was introduced to remove untouchability, it persists in various forms, particularly in rural areas. Men can’t be morally upright solely because of the law.
So, to entirely abolish untouchability, public education must continue. It is necessary to foster a positive public perception to support legal initiatives. It is crucial to educate Revenue Patwaris and Lower Police Officers in remote rural areas to eliminate caste bias and implement legal action with determination.
What is the Protection of Civil Rights Act concerned with?
Abolition of Untouchability
Which article of the Indian Constitution deals with the abolition of Untouchability?
To what extent is the Protection of Civil Rights Act extended?
The Act covers the whole of India
What was the original name of the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955?
Untouchability (Offences) Act,1955