Legal analysis on caste system in India

This blog is written by Mehakpreet Kaur BBA LLB(Hons) 2nd year law student from Lovely Professional University. This blog is about the legal analysis of the Caste system in India.


This year India celebrated its 76th Independence day. The Indian Constitution came into force on 26th January 1950. It is the longest-written constitution in the entire world. Article 15 of the constitution says that “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, place of birth or any of them.”

Casteism is a major problem in our Indian society and many people are discriminated and restricted from their rights on the basis of the caste to which they belong. Casteism still exists in our society even after almost seven decades of independence. We have not got freedom from casteism an it is increasing day by day. It is deeply rooted and strengthening its hold in our society.

Origin of Caste System

There are many theories about how the caste system in India is established and what is its origin. Manusmriti is oldest book on Hindu law. According to religious theory, the origin of the caste system is Brahma. It is further divided into four categories which are Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudras. Brahmans are considered to be superior as compare to all the other three categories. Teachers and Priests were categorized as Brahmans. The second category is Kshatriya. Rulers and soldiers are categorized as Kshatriyas. The third category is Vaishyas.

Merchants and Traders people comes under the category of Vaishyas and the fourth category is Shudras, the people who all kinds of menial work. The fifth category is for the people who did not come under caste system and are called Dalits. They fall outside the caste system.

Division on the basis of Caste in society

Society is divided on the basis of caste of the people especially in rural areas. There are different communities with different names in the society based on their caste. Our society has categorized people into two categories that is upper caste and lower caste. People face discrimination on the basis of their caste status in the society. In rural areas, many people who belongs to the lower caste are restricted from entering the temples and the people from these communities worship in separate temples. People from lower castes were treated differently and today also this issue exists even after so many years of independence we are not able to eradicate this problem from our society. This is the bitter truth of the society which is followed in this century also.

Constitutional Framework

Article 17 of the Indian Constitution states that “Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. Discrimination on the basis of Untouchability is offence punishable under law. Indian citizens has the fundamental right to file a suit against the person who discriminates them on the basis of untouchabilityi.

In the case of State of Kerala vs. Appa Balu Ingleii , the Supreme court upheld the conviction for preventing a person from lower caste from filling water from borewell.

In Asiad Project Workers Caseiii, the Supreme Court held that the right which is provided under article 17 is provided against private individuals and it is also the duty of the state to ensure that the right should not be violated.

Article 46 of the Indian Constitution says that it is the responsibility of the state to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society, particularly, scheduled caste and scheduled tribes with special care. This article further says that it is the responsibility of the state to protect the weaker sections of the society from social injustice and any kind of exploitation.

Article 16(4) allows the state to reserve the vacancies in the public services for the backward classes of the state, Article 16(4A) allows the state to implement provisions  for reservation in the matter of promotion for Scheduled caste and Scheduled tribe. Article 16 (4B) allows the state to consider any unfilled vacancies reserved for backward classes of the society as separate class of vacancies not subject to the limit of 50% reservation.

Reasons for the backwardness of people of weaker sections of the society

Lack of education– Illiteracy is one of the major cause for the backwardness of the weaker section people of the society.Earlier, the untouchables are not allowed to use public educational institutions. They are restricted from studying.Education is very important for eradicating this problem from the society. It is the only means which can improve the society. Indian Constitution provides reservations for the backward classes of the society but the people of weaker communities are not aware about their rights and they do not get the benefit.

Political problems – Most of the population of our country lives in rural areas. In urban arears people are aware about their rights but in rural areas people are not aware about their rights.

Panchayat elections are contested after every five years in India and the Constitution of India provides reservation to the weaker sections of the society to contest the elections. This right is given to the people to protect themselves from the pressure and exploitation of the upper caste people. Sometimes we see that a person win the election because of being the lower caste candidate but the power is in some other person’s hands who takes all the decisions. So increase in participants of weaker section of the society for contesting elections and increase in work for the development of marginalized section of the society can eradicate this problem of caste discrimination.

Social problems – Untouchables are considered impure and have very low position in the society. The high caste Hindus maintain distance from them. Scheduled caste people are considered inferior and low. They are looked down upon by the people of other castes. Their touch is considered to be polluting the people of the higher castes. They are always treated as the servants of the other caste people.

Religious problems-The people from lower castes are restricted from entering the temples. They had no right to worship. The untouchables were not allowed to enter the temples and also they were not served by the Brahmins. Brahmins do not provide their priestly services to the people from lower castes

No Right of Ownership of Property- People belonging to lower castes were not allowed to have their own property. Majority of the people from the weaker sections of the society depend upon the agriculture for their livelihood. Recently, they got the right to own property but very less people own the property and only few own the agricultural land.

Suggestions and Conclusion

After seven decades of independence, the discrimination on the basis of caste still exist. People are still discriminating each other on the basis of the caste.Caste discrimination is deepluy rooted in the society and this is the problem which is caused by the perception and mindset of the common people and the people themselves can finish it. Many provisions are introduced by the government to eradicate this problem from the society but the objectives has not been achieved fully. This problem should not be considered as same as the problem like poverty for which government allocate some funds and work upon it, it is the problem which is deeply rooted in the minds of the people. It is very important to educate them

The problem is not with the legislation. In India many laws are framed to eradicate the problem of caste discrimination but the issue is in their implementation. Laws are not properly implemented at the ground level. The solution to this problem is to make the people of the lower caste aware about their rights. They should be aware that this is their fundamental right and ad they have the right to file a case against the person who violates their right. Strict implementation of the laws and awareness among the people of weaker sections about their rights is one step forward to eradicate this problem of caste discrimination from the society.


i Constitution of India

ii State of Kerala vs. Appu Balu Ingle, AIR 1993 SC 1126

iii Asiad Project Workers Case, AIR 1982 SC 1473

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