Protection Of Civil Rights Act – An Overview


Prohibition to temples, inequality in education, denied access to use public places, wells, water bodies, etc. had been some major issues in our society for decades. The classification of society into upper and lower caste made all of this happen. The blog post includes all to be known about the Protection of Civil Rights Act. Importance of civil right, our constitution on it, the salient features and major pitfalls in the Act. In India, the discrimination and oppression against untouchables or lower caste marked a necessity for the implementation of this Act.

Initially, the Protection of Civil Rights Act was not easy for people to accept as big changes suffer a lot of criticism but with time and its strong implementation, the Act did make a difference in society. The people who were regarded as pollutants of our society now stand on an equal platform in accessing resources and opportunities. Moreover, it is our thinking that can help to prevent untouchability so we should all together raise our voice and help develop our society.


The Human Rights Act of 1964, which eliminated discrimination in public places and eliminated discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, is regarded as one of the achievements of human rights law. The first proposal by President John F. Kennedy survived strong opposition from members of Congress and was signed into law by Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson. In the years that followed, Congress expanded this practice and passed additional human rights legislation such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is landmark legislation regarding the federal and a successful outcome of civil rights movements. It eliminates the unequal use of voter registration requirements and racial discrimination in schools, workplaces, and public institutions (public places).

In India, for decades people are suffering from social injustice due to the prevalence of the caste system. The lower caste and the untouchables were considered as the pollutants of our society and are deprived of their civil rights. They were prohibited from entering into public places like temples, schools, and are restrained from the use of lakes, ponds, wells, parks, etc. They are even forbidden to use public convenience.

Importance For The Protection Of Civil Rights Act, 1955

This Act eradicates the caste stigma in our society, the issue of untouchability is practiced against the scheduled caste people due to which they are deprived of their opportunities and equal benefits compared to other people in the society, the need of introducing the Protection of Civil Rights Acts was felt. A provision under Article 17 in the Indian Constitution was introduced after independence which abolished the practice of untouchability.

This Act offers a variety of provisions to prevent untouchability. It is important to understand that this law made it mandatory for a public servant to investigate all complaints. If any public servant does not perform his or her duties, he or she will be considered as the encourager or supporter of such an act. Any form of non-disclosure is also punishable under this Act.

What Is The Protection Of The Civil Rights Act?

Under this Act enforcement measures have been made in respect of punishments and the charge of untouchability has been made known. An example of a ban on the entry of Scheduled Castes into temples should be dealt with carefully. Those who promote such practices and promote discrimination should be barred from doing so by introducing persecution to them. The State Government has also issued various orders and directives from time to time for the removal of various difficulties and problems faced by members of Scheduled Castes. Some facts regarding the same are shown below-

  • The Protection of Civil Rights Act came into force on 8th May 1955.
  • The term “Civil Rights” is defined in Section 2 of this Act.
  • It is defined as “civil rights” means any right accruing to a person because of the abolition of “untouchability” by Article 17 of the Constitution.[1]
  • The Act determines the punishment for preaching and performing “untouchability” and the imposition of any disabilities arising out of there and related matters.
  • Initially, when the Civil Rights Act was introduced it did not show any impact on society but with the stream of time, it did make a difference in society.

Indian Constitution On Civil Rights

The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1955, is a “special law” found in strategic areas where the Constitutional amendment of blind equality must be amended to address the reality of total inequality. Article 14 to Article 18 of the Indian Constitution provides for the right of equality.

  • Article 14 talks about equality before the law
  • Articles 15 provides for social equality and access to public places
  • Article 16 provides equality in matters of public employment
  • Article 17 abolishes untouchability
  • Article 18 provides for the abolition of titles

In regards to Civil rights, Article 17 plays an important role as it provides for the abolition of untouchability. It is a punishable offense and various amendments are made concerning it. The Untouchability Act, 1955 was introduced by the Parliament and was amended by the Untouchability Amendment and Miscellaneous Provision Bill, 1972.

Insight To Article 17

Article 17 of the Indian Constitution states that untouchability is abolished and the practice of untouchability is forbidden. It is an offense according to the law.

The Supreme Court in People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India[2] held that if the rights under Article 17 were violated by any individual, then it would be the government’s responsibility to take immediate action. This is to ensure that the poor SC and ST communities of unaffected people do not have to come to court to enforce their basic rights.

Case Laws

In M.A. Kuttappan v E. Krishnan Nayanar and another[3], it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that in order to attract the provision of Section 7 (1) (d) of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, it should be shown that such words have the effect of insulting the plaintiff’s ground of untouchability.

In R.S. Raghunath v. State of Karnataka and another[4], it was held that in Section 5 of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 no case is levied on applicants since the hospital where the applicants work is a veterinary hospital.

Salient Features Of The Act

  1. The amended law has strongly strengthened the provision for eliminating untouchability. All known cases will not be considered as non-compoundable and in cases where the sentence does not exceed three months imprisonment, these may be tried summarily.
  2. For the punishment of untouchability both fine and imprisonment will be awarded.
  3. The Act considers research and studies to determine areas where untouchability is practiced, establish committees to implement the Act, and provide adequate resources and facilities to persons with disabilities due to untouchability, enabling them to access their rights.
  4. Privately owned places of worship and land or apartments under these private places of worship approved by the owner to be used as public places of worship are brought within the purview of the law.
  5. Preaching and justification of untouchability on unreasonable grounds of history, philosophy, etc. are also made an offense.
  6. Forcibly engaging people to sweep is also an offense under the Act.
  7. Where a convicted person under any of the above categories, in possession of any license or other activity, trade, profession, or hiring a trial court may revoke or suspend the license.
  8. It is provided that the Central Government will consolidate the steps taken by the State Governments by implementing the provisions of the Act and, annually, tabling in House of Parliament a report of itself and State Governments.
  9. State governments have been empowered to impose fines in the area of ​​any concern and assist the commission.

Some Major Pitfalls In The Implementation Of The Act

Section 15-A of the Civil Rights Act provides that the State Government may appoint officers to establish or use presiding officers for prosecution for violation of the Act. The State may establish Special Courts to hear cases in the Civil Rights Act offenses. Central Government and State governments need to take steps such as these where necessary to protect all rights arising from the elimination of untouchability.

However, it is unfortunate that neither the Central Government nor the State Government has taken such administrative action as required by this Act. Also, in the absence of any well-established Central Agency to enforce the Act in the first instance, the requirement, as per the Act, to present the Annual Report of the Administration of Law to Parliament would not be substantial.

Apart from the proclamation of Janata’s policy in Bihar to eliminate untouchability within five years, there is no example of a declaration of disability or even imposition of a collective fine as authorized by Section 10A of the Act.

It is also to address that the problem of dues and load of work is also creating a barrier. The rate of unfinished cases of the Civil Rights Act is very high and has been growing alarmingly over the years. This is because the overall function and load of the Court for several years has been increasing.

The reason for the absolution of cases is that the investigation machinery is not all sensitive to these cases and shows a tendency during the investigation which makes the prosecution side very vulnerable. They are required to investigate and collect information in such a way that it is required under Section 302 of CrPC.


Despite these pitfalls, the machinery is overcoming obstacles to its way to implement the act more accurately and effectively over the years. The condition of the untouchables and other lower castes have been improved with its implementation. The act achieved to curb differences between the upper and lower caste to some extent. Many backward areas still practice untouchability but earlier they neither had proper machinery nor resources to seek justice. In today’s era, they can fight for their rights and equal opportunities.

Although much has been done and the Constitution has inserted Article 17 to abolish untouchability, it is still going on in various ways, especially in rural areas. Men cannot be morally upright only by law. If these evils are to be completely eradicated, the work of educating public opinion must continue. The creation of healthy public opinion to support legal efforts is needed. More and more awareness should be spread. It is considered especially necessary to educate the Revenue Patwaris, the Lower Police Officers in rural areas to eradicate their caste prejudice and to enforce legal action with vigor.



[2] AIR 1982 SC

[3] 2004 CRI.L.J. 1770

[4] 1992 AIR 81 1991 SCR Supl.

This article has been written by Aditi Vishnoi, B.A.LL.B. (H) 2nd YEAR, The ICFAI University, Dehradun.

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