NEW DELHI: Indian society is still experimenting with 'tryst with destiny' as even after 70 years of independence the SC/ST community members continue to face discrimination, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.
Voicing serious concern over the prevailing untouchability and discrimination, the top court said it requires a "soul searching" on whether a 'Harijan' can shake hand with a person of higher class on equal footing and whether the society has been able to reach that level of psyche and human dignity to remove the discrimination based upon caste.
The hard-hitting remarks were made by a three-judge bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai, which recalled the two directions passed by its two-judge bench in 2018 that diluted the provisions of arrest under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
"Sewer workers are dying due to poisonous gases in chambers and it is like death traps" as they are not even provided with masks and oxygen cylinders for entering in sewer chambers, the apex court said.
It said SC/ST members cannot be put to a disadvantageous position in comparison to upper caste people and "what legislature cannot do legitimately, cannot be done by the interpretative process by the courts".
It further observed, "The clear answer is that untouchability though intended to be abolished, has not vanished in the last 70 years. We are still experimenting with 'tryst with destiny'. The plight of untouchable is that they are still denied various civil rights; the condition is worse in the villages, remote areas where fruits of development have not percolated down. They cannot enjoy equal civil rights," the bench said.
The society has not been able to provide the modern methods of scavenging to 'Harijans' due to lack of resources and proper planning and apathy, it said.
"Whether he can shake hand with a person of higher class on equal footing? Whether we have been able to reach that level of psyche and human dignity and able to remove discrimination based upon caste? Whether false guise of cleanliness can rescue the situation, how such condition prevails and have not vanished, are we not responsible? The answer can only be found by soul searching," it said.
"The members of the SC/ST are still discriminated against in various parts of the country. In spite of reservation, the fruits of development have not reached to them, by and large, they remain unequal and vulnerable section of the society", it said.
Dealing with the plight of tribals, the bench said the society has not been able to provide them "even basic amenities, education and frugal comforts of life in spite of spending a considerable amount for the protection".