01 June 1955
Untouchability (Offences) Act comes into force
The Untouchability (Offences) Act, which prescribes punishments for the practice of untouchability and abolishes this heinous practice, came into force on 1st June 1955.
Untouchability is an important topic in social justice and Indian society of the UPSC syllabus.
- Article 17 of the Indian Constitution abolishes the practice of untouchability.
- The Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 makes this practice a punishable offence. It also prescribes penalties for the enforcement of any disability that arises out of untouchability.
- This Act was passed in the Indian Parliament for the eradication of untouchability from the country.
- The Act imposed a 6-month-imprisonment or a fine of Rs.500 for any person convicted of enforcing the disabilities of untouchability on anyone else in case of his first offence.
- In the case of subsequent offences, the convicted person will be sentenced the jail term as well as the fine. There is provision for increasing the punishment also if considered necessary.
- The offences covered under the Act are ones like preventing a person from entering a temple/place of worship or any other public place; preventing a person from drawing water from sacred water bodies, wells, etc.; preventing a person from using a ‘dharmashala’, restaurant, shop, hotel, hospital, public conveyance, educational institution, and any place of public entertainment.
- It also covers the denial of the usage of roads, rivers, river banks, cremation grounds, wells, etc.
- Other offences included are enforcing professional, trade or occupational disabilities, preventing a person from benefiting out of a charity, refusing any person from carrying out an occupation, refusing to sell goods/services to a person, injuring, molesting, excommunicating, boycotting or annoying a person on the basis of untouchability.
- The Act was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 8th May 1955 and passed in both houses. It became effective from 1st June 1955.
- The Act was amended on September 2nd 1976 and renamed Protection of the Civil Rights Act. This Act had even stringent measures to curb untouchability. It made the wilful negligence of complaints related to untouchability by investigating officers as tantamount to abetment.
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