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The Bombay High Court has directed the Central government to consider directing the media to refrain from using the word Dalit when referring to members of Scheduled Castes.
An order to this effect was passed by the Nagpur Bench of the Court, while disposing of a PIL filed by one Lalitji Mesharam against the use of the word.
Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate SR Narnaware informed the Court that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has already advised the Central government to refrain from using the word, through a circular issued last March.
The circular in question had instructed states to refrain from using any term apart from “Scheduled Caste” when referring to persons falling under the category.
Accordingly, the Additional Government Pleader also informed the Court that the state government is due to take a decision on the matter.
Narnaware, however, pointed out that similar directions to refrain from using the word are yet to be issued to the media.
The Bench of BP Dharmadhikari and ZA Haq has therefore suggested that the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (IB Ministry) issue appropriate directions on the issue to the Press Council of India.
“As Central Government has issued necessary directions to its officers, we find it can also issue suitable directions as per law to the respondent no. 2 (Press Council of India) and the media to refrain from using the same word.”
A decision on whether such instructions should be issued to the media is to be taken within six weeks.
“Various institutes in the field are not before us and hence, we direct respondent no. 1 (IB Ministry) to consider the question of issuing such direction to the media and take a suitable decision upon it within next six weeks.”
The aforementioned government circular was issued after taking note of earlier communications directing that the use of the word ‘Harijan’ be avoided. Further, the circular refers to a Madhya Pradesh High Court ruling rendered last January, which had ordered against the use of the word Dalit.
The following extract has been quoted in the circular from the case of Mohanlal Mahor v. Union of India,
“…that the Central Government/State Government and its functionaries would refrain from using the nomenclature ‘Dalit’ for the members belonging to Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes as the same does not find mentioned in the Constitution of India or any statute.“
In view of the same, the circular states,
“All the state governments/UT administrations are requested that for all official transactions, matters, dealings, certificates etc, the constitutional term, ‘Scheduled Caste’ in English, and its appropriate translation in other national languages should alone be used for denoting the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes notified in the Presidential Orders issued under Article 341 of the Constitution of India.“
Read Bombay High Court Order:
Read Circular dated March 15, 2018: