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    Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 – All You Need to Know

    This article on “Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 – All You Need to Know” is written by Tanisha Bamboria. She is pursuing Law from Mohan Lal Sukhadia University, Udaipur; and is Content Writer & Legal Researcher at Legal Thirst.


    From the beginning many people in the Indian society has suffered class stigma and social injustice. The later Vedic period divided class system into four Varna Brahmins as elite class, khastriyas known as warriors, vaishyas as teachers, artisans etc. and shudras as lowest class. Every lower caste people has suffered class discrimination by upper class and it leads to massive violations of their cultural, economic, political and social rights. They were considered as imminent pollutants and were regarded as untouchables. So in order to safeguard their rights, the constitution of India guaranteed them fundamental rights.

    Background of the Act

    • Article 14 of the constitution declares the state shall not deny any person, “equality before law” and “equal protection of law” within the territory of India.
    • Article 17 of the Indian constitution, abolishes the practice of untouchability.  It reads as follows “untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden”. The enforcement of any disability arising out of “untouchability” shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
    • In the context of above constitutional provision, an Untouchability Offences Act 1955 was enacted for the protection of untouchables. Subsequently it was amended and renamed in 1967 as “Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955”, while the “protection of civil rights rules“ were further notified in 1977.
    • Under the revised act the practice of untouchability was made cognizable and non- compoundable offence and stricter punishment was provided for the offender.
    • The act is applicable to the whole India. It is implemented by respective state government and union territory administration.

    “Civil Rights” under the Act

    In India civil rights includes equality before law, freedom of speech and expression, cultural and religious freedom etc. in the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955, the civil right is defined under section 2(a) “civil rights means any right accruing to a person by reason of the abolition of “untouchability” by Article 17 of the constitution”.

    Disabilities arising out of Untouchability

    1. Religious Disabilities
    2. Social Disabilities
    3. Refusal of admissions into hospitals
    4. Refusing to sell goods or to render services
    5. Unlawful compulsory labour
    6. Other offences arising out of untouchability.

    Provisions in Protection of Civil Rights or Disabilities arising out of Untouchability

    Religious disability:

    Section 3 of the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955; states the punishment of an offence arising out of denial into religious place due to untouchability.


    1. Denial of entry into public worship place.
    2. Not allowing to offer pray or performing any religious service
    3. Not allow to use water of any sacred tank, spring or water-course.


    Imprisonment not less than one month and not more than six months and also fine of Rs. 100 to 500.

    Social Disabilities:

    Section 4 of the act states the punishment for an offence arising out of denial to use; and access to any public places and other.


    1. Denial to access any shop, public restaurant, hotel or place of public entertainment.
    2. Not allowed to use any of the utensils, and other articles kept in any public restaurant, hotel, dharamshala, sarai or musafirkhana for the use of general public.
    3. Not allow to practice of any profession or the carrying on any occupation, trade or business or employment in any job.
    4. Not allowed to use or access , any river , stream, spring, well , tank, cister, water-tap; or other watering place or any other bathing ghat, burial or cremation ground; any sanitary convenience, any road or passage or place of public resort.
    5. Denial to use or access any place used for a charitable or public purpose maintained wholly or partly out of state fund.
    6. The observance of any social or religious custom, usage or ceremony or taking part in any religious, cultural procession.
    7. Use or access to any public conveyance.
    8. Objection for the construction, acquisition, or occupation of any residential premises in any locality


    Imprisonment not less than one month and not more than 6 months, and fine of Rs 100 to 500.

    Refusal of Admission into Hospitals

    Refusal of admission into hospitals section 5 of the act states the punishment of an offence related to denial of admission into hospital, dispensary etc. due to untouchability.


    1. Denial of admission to any hospitals, dispensary, educational institution or any hostel , maintained and established for the general public
    2. Does any act which discriminates against any such person after admission in aforesaid institution.


    Imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than six months and fine of Rs.100-500

    Refusing to Sell Goods or Render Services:

    Section 6 of the act states punishment of an offence arising out of untouchability.


    • Whosoever on the grounds of untouchability refuses to sell any goods and render services to any person but at the same time and at the same terms and conditions the goods are sold and services are rendered to other persons in the ordinary course of business.


    • Imprisonment not less than one month or not more than six months and fine of Rs.100-500.
    • Any persons holds license (permission or permit) in respect of trade, business, calling or employment in relation to offence which is committed, the court directs the license shall stand cancelled or suspended for time period as court may deem fit and order of the court passed by the competent authority to cancel or suspend the license under any such law. (Section 8 of the act).

    Section 7 of the act defines the definition of “untouchability”.


    • When someone prevents any person from exercising any right accruing to him by the reason of the abolition of “untouchability” under article 17 of the constitution.
    • Molests, injures, annoys, boycotts, obstructs or causes or attempts to cause obstruction to any person in the exercise of such right.
    In explanation 2, person shall be deemed to boycott another person who-
    1. Refuses to permit  other person , to use or occupy house or land, refuses to work for hire, to do business with; or to render him or to receive any customary services or refuses to do things; which is done in ordinary course of business.
    2. Abstains from maintaining social, professional and business relations.
      • By words either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations encourages; or incite any person or public to practice untouchability.
    The person who Encourages or incites shall deemed to be-
    1. If he directly or indirectly preaches untouchability in any form.
    2. If he justices, grounds of practice of untouchability such as whether on the historical ground, philosophical, religious, tradition of caste system.
    3. Insults or attempt to insult on the ground of untouchability, a member of scheduled caste.


    For the above said section , the person is punishable with an imprisonment of not less than 1 month and not more than 6 months and a fine of Rs. 100- 500.

    Unlawful Compulsory Labour:

    Section 7 A states that whosoever on the grounds of untouchability compels anyone to do;

    • Any scavenging or sweeping
    • or to remove any carcass
    • to flay any animal
    • Or to remove the umbilical cord or to do job of similar nature.

    Shall be punished on the ground of enforcing untouchability. The person shall be imprisoned for not less than three months ore not more than 6 month and fine of Rs. 100-500.

    Preventive/Deterrent Provisions

    Section 9, resumptions or suspension of grants made by the government:  where the manager or trustee of a place of public worship (or any educational institution or hostel) which is in receipt of a grant of land or money from the government, the government can directly suspend these grants if they are convicted of an offences under the act.

    Section 10, Abetment of Offence:

    Whoever abets any offence under the act shall be punishable with the punishment provided for the specific offence.

    Section 10A, power of state government to impose fines:

    State government to impose fines on inhabitants of local area/ village.

    • When the inhabitants of an area are concerned in committing offence.
    • When the inhabitants of an area concerned in abetting the commission of any offence
    • When the inhabitants of an area are concerned in harbouring persons concerned in the commission of such an offence
    • When the inhabitants of an area are concerned in failing to render all the assistance in their power to discover or apprehend the offender or suppressing material evidence of the commission of such offence.

    Section 11 enhanced penalty on subsequent conviction:

    • Section 11(a) the person convicted of an offence or abetment for a second time; be punishable with imprisonment for six months to one year and also with the fine of Rs 200-500.
    • Section 11(b) if the person convicted of an offence for the third time; then imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than two years with a fine Rs 500-1000.

    Other provisions of the Act

    Section 13, limitation of jurisdiction of civil courts: No civil court shall entertain or continue any suit or proceedings related to this act.

    Section 15A, duty of state government to take effective measures
    1. Section 15A (2) (1) Legal aid for the persons subjected to person arising out of untouchability.
    2. The Section 15A (2) (III) special courts for trial and offences under the act.
    3. Section 15A(2)(4) establishments of committees at appropriate levels, as state government think fit; to assist them in implementing and formulating measures for rights arising out from abolition of untouchability.
      • The state and district level vigilance and monitoring committees; which review the implementation of the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes (prevention of atrocities) act, 1989, also review the action under the protection of civil rights act 1955.
    4. The Section 15A (2) (5) the provision of periodic survey of working of provision of this act with a view of suggesting measures for better implementation of the act.
    5. Section 15A (2) (6) identification of areas and adoption of measures; where persons are under any disability arising out of untouchability.

    Central government to make rules to carry out the provisions of the act; and also shall take steps necessary to coordinate the rules made by the state government on disability arising out of untouchability.


    To address the caste stigma and to uplift the rights of untouchables the provisions in the “Protection of Civil Rights Act” 1955; has changed our caste system at some level. Civil Rights forms an engine of  every society and it is important to addressed the issues arising out of it; and for that legislatures has made flexible and rigid provisions for the punishments of an offence. So that rights of an deprived class is protected and everyone can live with dignity and respect in the society.

    Disclaimer: The opinions and views in the articles and research papers published on this website; are personal and independent opinions of the author. The website is not responsible for them.

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