Safeguards Available To SCs & STs: A Vision Of The Constitution Of India
We, the people, are part of a civil society wherein the people of different class, caste, religion, sex, race or creed reside in a peaceful environment which is protected by the law established. In the society, all the people are not given the same respect and privilege as to other group of people as they are considered to be of low values and sometimes untouchable and now as per the constitution, they are categorized as scheduled castes and tribes for their development giving some special treatment in education, employment etc. Therefore, this paper is intended to emphasis on the present position of the SCs & STs in India and will also entertain the various constitutional safeguards which are there to protect the interest of these people who are the target of the social stigma. The paper is also intended to include the various development on the basis of judgements by the Supreme Court of India in this respect and how the life and the standard thereby are increasing as the touchstone of the Constitution of India can never be there if the edifice of constitutional provisions is constructed without attaining the equality amongst the people of the country. Therefore, it is the basic and foremost duty of the government of the country to provide for the appropriate laws and regulations to attain that objective within the reasonable time otherwise the value will be diluted if it is attained after the great harm to SCs & STs.
Keywords: SC & ST, Constitutional Safeguard, Development, Present Position.
India is a country where approximately 1.27 billion people are there who belong to different religion, caste, communities and all of them have different customs at the same time which they practice under the protection of the Constitution. The people of different castes have different beliefs and considerations about the others’ caste and customs which, sometimes, go beyond the spirit of the constitution when the rights of others are violated or tried to be suppressed by the other people who consider themselves as of the superior caste. Caste can be defined as, ‘one of the classes into which the Hindu people of India were traditionally divided or a division of society based upon differences of wealth, rank, or occupation’. Caste is something which is the creation of the human beings itself, it is not something which is very natural but emerged amongst the human being by practicing various rituals and customs time to time. The people have divided the group of people on the basis of their work they did and also considered the families and the reputation of the families thereof they belonged to in order to make the difference between superior and inferior. On the basis of this division, the people had to suffer a lot of atrocities from the very beginning of the time this system began. They were made the scapegoat of the worst treatment from the very beginning of the time and always considered them not to be the part of the society. Caste is one of the biggest problems which our country is facing in the present time, it is like terrorism which is killing the integrity, humanity and morality between the people of the country which is one of the ultimate goal enshrined in the preamble of the constitution. The people are propagating the caste as it is one of the essential element of their life, the chain is continued from generation to generation on the similar terms and beliefs as were been practiced through the ages. This has turned the life of the people into the miserable one and they are made the target of social stigma. The people are known as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes to show them as historically disadvantaged and sometimes are also called as dalits. These people are not considered equal to the other people but are known as backward, the spirit of the constitution which was thought by Dr. Ambedkar cannot be achieved if the equality, integrity is not maintained. I am of the opinion that though the people have right to enjoy and profess their caste and customs but they should not be allowed to come outside the spirit of the constitution. Now, after the Constitution of India came into force, various developments have been made to uplift the standards of their life in all the aspects whether it is in the sphere of social life or the economic progress. The constitution has been molded into such shape that no one is left as unequal but there must be a sense of liberty, justice and equality for all. Article 341 and Article 342 of the Constitution of India provides for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled which provides that the President of India, after the Consultation of the Governor of the respective States, may designate such castes, races, tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes for the purpose of the Constitution.
II. ATROCITIES CAUSED TO SCS & STS
Don’t sit over here for now, first I need to change the bed sheet as before you, there was one dalit sitting over there. This is one of the very common commentsthatare used against the people of SC and ST category; most of the people consider them as inferior and don’t even offer the food and the water to them in the same vessels they use for themselves. According to the statistics compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, crime against SCs rose to 47064 in 2014 from 39408 in 2013. In fact, the rate of such crimes against SCs surpassed the national average in as many as 10 states in 2013 and 2014. There are many kinds of offenses which are committed against the scheduled castes and tribes whether in social terms or individually such as untouchability, murder and rape etc. “Every hour two Dalit are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched”, has become a catchphrase since Hillary Mayell had coined it while writing in National Geographic full 11 years ago. Well, today these figures have to be revised upward as for instance, the rape rate of Dalit women has shot up from Hillary’s 3 to well over 4.3, a whopping 43 percent rise.‘Untouchabilitystill rules the roots of rural Goa despite 40 years of liberation,Untouchability still exists in Pernemtaluka. When we realized that Kale is left to fend for himself,many felt that he should be helped out to rise from the injustice, said NivruttiShirodkar,a journalist andHarijan couples have to go outside the state or in some undisclosed locations to get their weddings blessed. If a Brahmin is caught participating in the wedding,he is shunted out of the temple and socially banned, Shirodkar added, social activist.’ So these are the various inferences which we can take into consideration for considering that still in this one of the fastest growing economy in the world, the discrimination on the basis of the caste and race is prevalent at a very high level and even at the places where people are very much educated and have high standards of lifestyle.
III. CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS FOR THE PROTECTION AND UPLIFTING OF SCs & STs
The Constitution of India as drafted by Dr B. R. Ambedkarhas provided a sword for the protection of the rights of these minorities and also has provided for the equal development of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. A number of provisions have been provided under the Constitution for their social welfare and to maintain the equality amongst all the people socially and economically, it is the duty of the state to make laws and regulations so that the gap between can be fulfilled. To attain the objective of the constitution that is Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all, the following are the constitutional provisions which relate to SCs & STs:
1.Article 15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
Article 15 of the constitution has made it clear that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, race, and place of birth by the state. It, further, provides that nothing in this provision shall prevent the state from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward class or citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. It also provides that nothing shall prevent the state in making special provisions relating to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions whether or not aided by the state. Therefore, certain reservation is given to them to uplift them in educational, social and economical sphere.
2.Article 16. Equality of opportunity in matters of Public Employment
It is provided that no citizen shall be ineligible or discriminated for any employment or office under the state on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them. This provision provides an additional relief and opportunity to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes by making it clear that nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which in its opinion not adequately represented under the state, further provided that also may make reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the state in favour of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes which are not adequately represented as earlier. This article tries to raise the standard of dignity and social life by providing the sufficient opportunity to this particular community.
3.Article 17. Abolition of Untouchability
One of the biggest problems the people from these castes have to face is the untouchablitity. In many areas today also, they are considered untouchable and unsacred and they are not even allowed to fetch water from the wells and to enter temple. This article clearly says that untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden and the enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. This is very important provision as it would discharge the upcoming atrocities by the people against the SC and ST.
4.Article 38. State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people
This article provides that the state shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions, facilities of the national life. It further provides that the state shall strive to minimize the inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities not only amongst the individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations. The provision assigns the security by providing that it would be the duty of the state to reduce the gaps between the social lives whether it is in status, facilities or opportunities.
5.Article 46. Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections
This section clearly imposes a duty on the state to promote the educational and economic interests of the people who are known as weak in the society and specially the people who belong to scheduled caste and tribes. It also makes it mandatory that the state has to protect them against the all social injustice and exploitation thereof. Although the provision is part of the Directive principles of state policy which are not enforceable by law, but it is the duty of the state to perform its function rendering the same needs and if the people mentioned therein are suffered and no steps are taken then it is the judiciary that may take a call of the atrocities.
6.Article 330. Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People
It is the beauty of the Indian Constitution to provide the opportunity to the people of SC& ST to represent the community in the House of People sothat they can raise the voice of the people they represent that will ultimately help in reducing the social inequality between the people. This article provides that seats shall be reserve in the House of the People for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. This is one of the most balancing provision which has been given under the constitution that may, to a large extent, decrease the social injustice and provide the appropriate opportunity to have a say.
7.Article 332. Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States
As the representation of the SC & ST was provided in the Parliament by reserving some seat, in the same manner seats shall be reserved for the SC & ST in the legislative assemblies of the states wherein certain number of members will be from this caste to represent the grievances and to represent the people of their community.
8.Article 335. Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts
Thisarticle again articulates the sense of reservation with respect to the people who are SC & ST. It provides that the claims of the members of the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes shall be taken into consideration in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the union or of a state. They are also given advantage providing that nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any special in their favour for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards or evaluation, for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes or services or posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State. This provision assures the STs and STs that to provide them with ample opportunities so that they may be lifted to such an extent that the inequality between them and others can be balanced or quashed.
9.Article 338 and Article 338A. National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes respectively
Article 338 and 338A of the Constitution of India are very important and of great significance as for the safeguards which have been provided for the SCs and STs by the constitution, there should be some machinery to have a check on the meaningful enforcement of these safeguards otherwise there is no sense of the provisions provided hereinbefore. Therefore, these provisions provide that there shall be a commission for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes respectively. The purpose for making the commission is very important as it is to investigate and monitor all the matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes under the Constitution or under any other law, to inquire into specific complaints if the people are deprived of the safeguards. The commission also participates and advises to the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes and it also evaluates the progress of their development under the Union and any State. It is also the duty of the commission to make recommendations as to measures, it discharges such other function in relation to welfare, protection and development and advancement of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
IV.CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF AMENDMENT ACT, 2015 TO PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES ACT, 1989
The Parliament by this amendment has certainly widened the ambit of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 which was not being sufficed in its purpose to protect the harassment of the dalits whether mental or physical; therefore it was the much needed measure to be taken by the legislature as to completely touch upon every aspect of the atrocities which may they be subjected to including their human rights. This Act has specifically provided various kinds of atrocities and also named them as to how the people against whom these are applied may raise up their voices to take the shelter of law by way of stringent rules.It therefore includes all the actions which are in contrast to their dignity, including social or economic boycott, have been included
The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 includes actions like tonsuring of head, moustache; the offences also include denying access to irrigation facilities or forest rights, “garlanding with chappals”, compelling them to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or to dig graves, using or permitting manual scavenging, dedicating a SC or ST women as devadasi and abusing in caste name.SanghamitraSheelAcharya,director of the New Delhi-based Indian Institute of Dalit Studies,said that these offences or atrocities impinge on the basic human rights of a person and hopefully, this Act will provide as a deterrent.
The list of atrocities in the amendment Act includes many serious offences against human rights such as, ‘tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts which are derogatory to the dignity of members of SCs & STs, Garlanding with Chappals, Denying access to irrigation facilities or forest rights, Dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or to dig graves, using or permitting manual scavenging, Dedicating a SC/ST woman as Devadasi, Abusing in caste name, perpetrating witchcraft atrocities, Imposing social or economic boycott, Preventing SC/ST candidates from filing of nomination to contest elections, Hurting a SC/ST woman by removing her garments, Forcing a member of SC/ST to leave house , village or residence, Defiling objects sacred to members SCs/STs, Touching or using words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature against members of SCs/STs’.
The nature has created all the people without any discrimination. Discrimination is the creation of the human beings whether it is in the case of caste or religion or sex etc. All people have same rights at the time of their birth, they don’t know any caste, religion, creed, race etc, it is the society where such things are being practiced since very long time in the name of personal rights, customs and rituals that they don’t allow the people to fetch water, worship in the temple etc. how can certain people be restricted from enjoying the same rights as are enjoyed by others and in the same manner. There is no rationale behind imposing such restrictions on a certain class of person on the basis of their caste, it does not do anything but make them a target of social stigma and they suffer the worst feeling of inferiority in the society without being at fault. The Constitution of India has given all the citizens the same rights to enjoy and on the same time, expressly abolished all those things which were against the spirit of socialism and the development of the nation.
A nation can never be a developed one in all the aspects unless it attains the equality amongst its citizens and that also with the essence of dignity as without dignity the life of a human being also will be one as of an animal’s life. Although many steps have been taken by the government for removing this gap and the constitution also provides for various safeguards, it is ultimately the people of the country who have to resolute and have to cleanse their minds which talks about the things such as untouchability and superiority and inferiority. It is of a great notion that the development of a country will be at a very high pace if all these lacunas are got rid of. We all should take solemnly a pledge that we will not discriminate the people on the basis of things which, in reality, do not exist. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar rightly said:
“Democracy is not merely a form of Government.
It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.
It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards our fellow men”.
Assistant Professor of Law