The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a plea challenging the Centre’s circular advising the media against using the word “Dalit” to refer to members of the Scheduled Caste, PTI reported. The petition was filed by advocate Sriram Parakkat who represented a group of individuals and organisations who are working for Dalit rights.
On August 7, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had advised media publications to refrain from using the term and to use the constitutional term “Scheduled Caste” in English and appropriate translations in other languages instead.
The plea said the word “Dalit” is a self-chosen name, used as a “positive self-identifier and as a political identity”. The petitioner said the name represented the people who have been affected by the caste system and the practice of untouchability.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, however, said the petitioners could approach the “appropriate authorities”.
In November 2018, the Press Council of India had ratified a decision against a blanket ban on the use of the word Dalit as such a restriction is “neither feasible nor advisable”.
The Centre’s advisory followed a directive by the Nagpur branch of the Bombay High Court in June 2018, which asked the government to consider advising the media to use the term “Scheduled Caste” as the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare had already issued a circular in March the same year.
On March 15, 2018, the Union ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment wrote to all ministries, departments, states and Union territories asking them to avoid using the terms “Dalit” and “Harijan” when referring to members of Scheduled Caste communities. The letter said the words “Scheduled Caste” should be used in communiques to refer to people from these communities.