Civil Rights protection Act 1955

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Indian Constitution through Article 17 abolished “Untouchability” and its practice in any form is forbidden. To enforce the Article, Parliament has an enacted Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 which was amended with more stringent provisions in 1976 and renamed as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.

Any offence committed in relation to a member of Schedule Caste is presumed to be committed on the ground of “untouchability” and is punishable with imprisonment and (or) fine. There is no provision for compromise under this Act.

Salient Features

Punishment:

  • Religious Disabilities:
    • Any person cannot prevented from entering any place of public worship including rivers, Ghats, tanks etc, on the ground of ‘untouchability’
    • Violator shall be punishable with imprisonment for one month to six months and also with fine.
  • Social Disabilities:
    • Certain disabilities cannot be enforced on the ground of ‘untouchability’ with regard to,  
    • Access and services of public places,  public conveyance
    • Practice of any occupation, buying any goods and services
    • Observance of any social or religious custom, jewellery and finery, etc.
    • Violator shall be punishable with imprisonment for one month to six months and also with fine.
    • For refusing to sell goods or services, the licence to trade or business shall stand cancelled.
  • Compulsory Labour:
    • If someone compels any person, on the ground of “untouchability”, to do any scavenging or sweeping shall be deemed to have enforced a disability arising out of “untouchability”.
    • He shall be punishable with imprisonment for three months to six months and also with fine.
  • Other Offences:
    • Any person cannot be prevented from exercising any right accruing to him by reason of the abolition of “untouchability” under Article 17 of the Constitution.
    • If someone molests, injures, annoys, obstructs or causes or attempts to cause obstruction, boycotts any person; by words or by signs violates the act.  
    • If someone incites any to practice “untouchability” in any form, is deemed to violate the act and attracts punishment.
    • Violator shall be punishable with imprisonment for one month to six months and also with fine.

Duty of Government:

  • The Central Government is empowered to make rules to carry out the provisions of this Act.
  • The Central Government has to place on the Table of each House of Parliament a report on the measures taken by itself and by the State Governments.
  • If after an inquiry the State Government is satisfied that the inhabitants of an area are involved in any offence punishable under this Act, the Government may impose a collective fine on the inhabitants.
  • It prescribes duty of State Government to ensure that the rights accruing from the abolition of “untouchability” may be availed of by the concerned persons.
    • Like legal aid to the victims, appointment of supervision officers, setting up special courts
    • Committees for better implementation, surveys, etc

Duty of Judiciary:

  • Every offence punishable under this Act is cognizable (arrest without a warrant) and every such offence may be tried summarily (speedily), except where it is punishable with imprisonment for a minimum term exceeding three months.
  • No legal proceeding can be taken against the Central Government or a State Government for anything done in good faith under this Act.
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