Delhi HC disinclined to hear plea against Centre circular on word 'Dalit', tells petitioner to move SC
The Centre’s circular directing media houses not to use the word ‘Dalit’ to describe members of Scheduled Castes was on Wednesday challenged in the Delhi High Court which indicated it was not inclined to hear it and asked the petitioner, who is a member of an organisation working for the community, to move the Supreme Court instead.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru said the circular was issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting after the Bombay High Court had asked the Centre to consider taking such a decision and therefore, the order has to be challenged in the apex court.
The National Dalit Movement for Justice’s (NDMJ) general secretary, V A Ramesh Nathan, challenged the August 7 circular saying the word “helps the diverse communities of notified scheduled castes across the country to unite under a common banner and associate, mobilize and gather consensus on the various common issues that need redress”.
Senior advocate Gopal Jain and advocate Tejaswi Shetty, representing Nathan, told the Delhi High Court that they will take instructions from their client on the next course of action.
On June 8 this year, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had asked the ministry to consider issuing a direction to media to stop using the word ‘Dalit’, following a circular to government officials against using the word.
Subsequently, on August 7 the ministry issued a circular directing the media to refrain from using the word ‘Dalit’ and to instead use ‘scheduled caste’.
In his plea challenging the circular, Nathan has said “the word ‘Dalit’ is a self- chosen name, a positive self-identifier and as a political identity to describe the pan-Indian community of all those who have been affected by the caste system and the practice of untouchability for several centuries and thus deprived of social, economic, political and cultural rights”.
“The ‘Dalit’ identity is a hard-won identity that the community has chosen for itself. The community identifies with the word ‘Dalit’, pride for the history of the community’s past and ongoing struggle against the caste system and its various evils, with continued and relentless activism against oppression, discrimination and untouchability and with the continued quest for full and equal citizenship as contemplated under the Constitution,” the petition also said.
It also said that the circular has violated the scheduled castes’ rights of choice, personal autonomy, self-determination and expression of their own identity “by encroaching upon the freedom of the individuals who wish to be referred to as ‘Dalit’ by creating an environment where they may not be referred to as such”.