Civil Rights Protection Act 1955

The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (No. 22 of 1955)

The practice of untouchability in Indian society is an attribute of the hierarchical stratification of society into castes. On the one hand, the Vedic use the term “varna” (colour) to denote caste seems to indicate that the caste system began as a result of racial differences between people. On the other, the characteristic feature of the caste system is also its categorisation of the pure and the impure based on religious beliefs and division of labour. While many authors argue that the concept of an untouchable caste did not exist in the initial stages of the caste system, at some point in history, the concept of untouchability did become “a historical cohort of the caste system, but not its essence.”

Numerous policies and laws have been made over the years to tackle the issue of untouchability. This Study attempts at studying one legislative attempt in this regard, viz., the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (PCRA). The basic difficulties of studying and improving the use of law as a tool of directed social change results from the fact that law by itself is the only component of a large set of policy instruments and usually cannot and is not used by itself. This caveat should be kept in mind while dealing with the problem of untouchability. The recommendations and suggestions made in this Study are solely in light of the problems faced in the provisions and implementation of the PCRA. These recommendations will have little effect if implemented in isolation, and without the backing of other policy measures.

The following Acts are punishable under Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955:

Disability to practice Religion: Anyone who stops any person on ground of Untouchability in any of the following ways:

  • To enter into the place of worship where any other person of the same religion is allowed
  • To worship, to offer prayers or to perform any religious ceremony or offer any religious service or bath at worship place or to use water from the sacred tank, spring well or from any other source, in the same manner as any other person of same religion is allowed to do.

Such person shall be punished with the imprisonment for the term of atleast one month but not exceeding 6 months along with the fine of atleast 100 Rs. but not more than Rs. 500.

Social Disabilities: Whoever discriminates any person on the ground of Untouchability in any way such as:

  • Access to shop, hotel, restaurant, place of public entertainment ;
  • Use of utensil which are provided in the hotels, dharamshala or any other public place for the use of general public or for a specific class of people;
  • To practice any profession or carry out any of the occupation, business or trade;
  • The use of water from spring well, tank, river, stream, water taps or any water place, or stops using bathing ghat, sanitary convenience, burial or cremation ground, road, passage or other thing meant for general public.

Such person shall be punished with the imprisonment for the term of atleast one month but not exceeding 6 months along with the fine of atleast 100 Rs. but not more than Rs. 500.

Refusing Admission: Whoever on the ground of Untouchability denies a person admission or discriminates the person after admission in the following places: Hospital, Educational Institution, Hostel or any other public places.

Such person Shall be punished with the imprisonment for the term of atleast one month but not exceeding 6 months along with the fine of atleast 100 Rs. but not more than Rs. 500.

Refusing to sell goods or render service: Whoever on the ground of Untouchability refuses or discriminates a person in selling goods or in rendering services with the same terms and conditions in which they rendered to the general public in the ordinary course of business.

Such person  Shall be punished with the imprisonment for the term of atleast one month but not exceeding 6 months along with the fine of atleast 100 Rs. but not more than Rs. 500.

Compulsory Labour : Whoever compels any person to Sweep, scavenge, or to remove any carcass or to flay any animal or to remove the umbilical cord or to do any other job of a similar nature.

Such person shall be deemed to have practice “Untouchability” and shall be punished with the imprisonment for the term of atleast three months but not exceeding 6 months along with the fine of atleast 100 Rs. but not more than Rs. 500.

Other Offences : Such person shall be punishable under law who does any of the following:

  • Prevents any person from acquiring rights provided under Art 17 of the Constitution of India; or,
  • Molests, insults, boycotts30 or create an obstruction in exercising the right; or
  • Molests, insults, boycotts any person who has exercised his rights; or
  • By any manner, spoken or written encourages or incites31 any person to practice “Untouchability”; or
  • Insults or attempts to insult any person on the ground of “Untouchability”

Such person shall be punished with the imprisonment for the term of atleast one month but not exceeding 6 months along with the fine of atleast 100 Rs. but not more than Rs. 500.

Offences done by Company: If any person who on the behalf of the Company has practiced “Untouchability”; or ii. If the Director, Manager, Secretary or any other official of the Company would have practiced “Untouchability”.

Such person may be Director, Manager, Secretary or any other Official of the Company shall be deemed to be guilty on behalf of the Company and shall be prosecuted for the offence.

 

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