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 law.
1. In 1976, the Untouchability (Offences ) Act, 1955 has been comprehensively amended and renamed as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 to enlarge the scope and make penal provisions more stringent.
2. The act defines civil right as any right accruing to a person by reason of the abolition of untouchability by Article 17 of the Constitution.
3. The term ‘untouchability’ has not been defined either in the Constitution or in the Act.
4. The Supreme Court held that the right under Article 17 is available against private individuals and it is the constitutional obligation of the State to take necessary action to ensure that this right is not violated.
5. Under the Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955), the offences committed on the ground of untouchability are punishable either by imprisonment up to six months or by fine upto Rs.500 or both.
6. A person convicted of the offence of ‘untouchability’ is disqualified for election to the Parliament or state legislature.
7. The Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) declares the following acts as offences:
(a) preventing any person from entering any place of public worship or from worshipping therein;
(b) justifying untouchability on traditional, religious, philosophical or other grounds;
(c) denying access to any shop, hotel or places of public entertainment;
(d) insulting a person belonging to scheduled caste on the ground of untouchability;
(e) refusing to admit persons in hospitals, educational institutions or hostels established for public benefit;
(f) preaching untouchability directly or indirectly;
(g) refusing to sell goods or render services to any person.