Dalit March

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Dalit Arts & Culture

A. Untouchability Offences Act, 1955

Through Article 17 of the Constitution, untouchability was abolished and its practice in any form had been abolished. Untouchability means the practices evolved as social restrictions in sharing food, access to public places, offering prayers and performing religious services, entry in temple and other public places and denial of access to drinking water sources, etc. Within 5 years of adoption of Constitution of India, the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 was enacted by the Parliament. The Act contained a significant provision that where any of the forbidden practices “is committed in relation to a member of a Scheduled Caste” the Court shall presume, unless the contrary is proved, that such act was committed on the ground of “Untouchability”. This implied that the burden of the proof lies on the accused and not on the prosecution .Soon after that Act came into force there was a general feeling of dissatisfaction with its impact as the legislation failed to serve the purpose for which it was enacted. The punishments awarded under the Act were also not adequate. Government of India, therefore, appointed a Committee in April 1965 under the Chairmanship of Shri Ilaya Perumal to study, inter-alia, problems of Untouchability vis-a-vis the working of the Untouchability (Offences) Act 1955 and to suggest changes therein. The Committee’s report was submitted in 19692.