Right to life includes the right not to be tied down by casteism

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Recently, the Delhi High Court has directed that, CBSE must comply with the request of two brothers belonging to the Scheduled Caste community to update their father’s surname in their Class 10 and 12 certificates.

About the case:
  • The plea was filed for a request to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to change the surname of children, as their father decided to change his surname due to casteist remarks from others.
  • Viewing the case, court has said that there is no denying the fact that the right to life includes the right to live with dignity, which includes “the right not to be tied down by casteism”.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • The Right to Live with Dignity is provided in Article 21, which reads, No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • The Indian Constitution is one of the few international constitutions that cater to the needs of every section of society.
  • The term human dignity was introduced in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by its founders as they understood the value of human dignity and merit.

Judicial Interpretations:

  • In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, the Supreme Court gave Art. 21 a new meaning, holding that the right to life is not just a physical right, but also includes the right to live with dignity.
  • In Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi, the Court elaborated on the same point, saying:

“The right to live includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, viz., the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head and facilities for reading writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and mingling with fellow human beings and must include the right to basic necessities the basic necessities of life and also the right to carry on functions and activities as constitute the bare minimum expression of human self.” 

Caste discrimination and Provisions:

  • Equality Before Law:
    • Article 14 says that no person shall be denied treatment of equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
  • The right is extended to all persons whether citizens or foreigners, statutory corporations, companies, registered societies or any other type of legal person.
  • Prohibition of Discrimination:
    • Article 15 of the Constitution of India states that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
  • Equality of Opportunity:
    • Article 16 of the Constitution of India states that there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of employment under the State.
  • No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or any of them, be ineligible for any office under the State.
  • Abolition of Untouchability:
    • Article 17 of the constitution abolishes Untouchability.
  • Promotion of Educational and Socio-economic Interests:
    • Article 46 requires the State ‘to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • Claims of Schedule Castes:

Article 335 provides that the claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.

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