Skip to main content

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report


By Rajiv Shah 

A high profile report prepared by the influential American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights, taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.
Titled “Challenges for Dalits in South Asia's Legal Community”, prepared by Anurag Bhaskar and Neil Modi, based on 74 interviews, out of which 32 respondents belong to the Dalit community, three are Adivasis, four belong to Other Backward Classes, three Muslims, and 32 other non-Dalits, the report quotes a respondent as noting that “the credibility of an institution such as the Supreme Court cannot flourish in a constitutional democracy if its marginalized communities do not explicitly express their trust in the institution.”
Referring to authoritative sources -- Kariya Munda Committee, a parliamentary committee on the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (2000); National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, chaired by Justice MN Venkatachaliah (2002); Parliamentary Standing Committee under the chairmanship of Dr EM Sudarsana Natchiappan (2006); and National Commission for Scheduled Castes (2016) -- the report says that as of 2011, there were only 24 judges belonging to SC/ST against a total of 850 judges in all the 21 High Courts, regretting, today, “Public data for High Courts and lower district judiciary could not be found.”
Quoting sitting and retired High Court upper caste judges on “persistence of implicit biases of upper-caste judges toward their colleagues from the Dalit community”, the report cites one of of them as stating how during his tenure as the Chief Justice in a State High Court “he faced resistance from his upper-caste colleagues whenever he considered a Dalit lawyer for appointment as a judge in that High Court.”
Quoting a retired upper caste Supreme Court judge, the report says, “Since Dalit judges in the lower judiciary get appointed through reservations/quotas, there is a bias against them in the higher judiciary that they are less meritorious, and thus do not get promoted easily”, adding, “This judge believed that reservations impact Dalit candidates negatively.”
According to the report, “Another retired Supreme Court judge, who was part of the Supreme Court collegium for about two years in the past decade, said that the main parameters for considering elevation were maintaining state-wide representation of High Court judges and their seniority at all levels. He added, as there were no Dalit judges with seniority in High Courts during his time on the bench, the issue of ensuring representation of Dalits in the Supreme Court was not discussed as part of the collegium.”
It quotes a former additional Solicitor General for India as sharing the same sentiment: “The fact that in the 70 years of its existence, the Supreme Court of India has seen only eight women judges and one Dalit Chief Justice is testament to the reality that the composition of our judiciary is not represented by the Dalit population.”
The report quotes another senior advocate and former Solicitor General for India as claiming that the situation “has drastically changed since the 1980s, and today “we see a substantial increase in the number of lawyers hailing from the Dalit community.” However, he also regrets, the members of the Dalit and Adivasi communities have not received adequate representation “since no systemic inclusionary arrangements were institutionalized.”
Citing three sitting High Court judges from upper castes, who “admitted that in lower courts caste can play a role in getting clients”, the report notes, “Often, some lawyers from the Dalit community hide their identity to get cases”, a fact “corroborated by another respondent from the Dalit community who shared that one of his relatives had changed his surname to a Brahmin surname in order to get clients.”
Pointing out that “since Dalits are one of the most disadvantaged social groups, they face barriers in access to quality legal education”, the report says, “A former Chief Justice of India remarked that most Dalit lawyers during his time did not study in English-medium schools; as a result, they were restricted to practicing in the lower courts as the higher courts require advanced proficiency in English… Because the medium of instruction in High Courts and the Supreme Court is English, many lawyers from the Dalit community did not have the option to start their practice before these constitutional courts.”
Since Dalit judges in lower judiciary get appointed through quotas, there is bias against them in higher judiciary that they are less meritorious
“Difficulties” faced by the Dalit community in the legal profession do not end here, says the report, pointing out, the bar associations in India have “historically been dominated by upper-caste males”. Thus, “A review of the profiles of current office holders and other officers of the Bar Council of India (BCI) suggests that it is comprised mainly of individuals from upper-caste backgrounds. Any scheme of the BCI or any bar association supporting Dalit lawyers in initial years could not be found.”
As a result of the “discrimination”, the report says, “Young Dalit lawyers lack access to equal opportunities in the legal sector, they are left with only limited options, leading them to create their own grassroots organizations advocating the Dalit community’s rights.” Worse, “lawyers from the Dalit/Adivasi community working on human rights cases at the grassroots level are being branded as Maoists or Naxalite in order to make them fall in line with the state administration.”
While there have been efforts to promote capacity of Dalit lawyers through organizations such as the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights and the National Dalit Movement for Justice, which have been working “with the criminal justice administration systems to address the issues of access to justice for those affected by atrocities and violence”, the report laments, “Most of the public prosecutors at district levels neither have knowledge of atrocities law nor are they sensitive towards the background of victims.”
Referring to anti-atrocity cases, the report quotes a Dalit lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court for more than a decade as stating that “quite often, he would experience differences in the approaches adopted by senior advocates in handling cases related to Dalits.” In one such instance, “three Supreme Court judges, who were considered liberal in their outlook, stopped him from making his submissions in cases of atrocities and affirmative action.” In another instance he was “stopped by the judge to read the facts in an atrocities case.”

Comments

Sudhir Rawal said…
If this is true in real sense, it is very unfortunate..but how can it be judged judiciously?
Jatin Sheth said…
Top judiciary has to be purely on the basis of merit only as the judgements delivered by the Supreme Court as great consequences in the country. India has seen Justice Balakrishnan who became Chief Justice of Supreme Court. As I remember, he became Chief Justice because he was a dalit.
Iqbalmasud Khan said…
Why go that far.
Justice Akhil Qureshi is the recent example of bias and bigotry. It may be pertinent to recall that Justice Qureshi ‘s grandfather Ghulam Rasul Qureshi was instrumental in bringing Gandhi ji to India, and in 1969 riots he was thrown out of Gandhi Ashram where he settled after Gandhiji’s assassination by Godse, the mentor of RSS and BJP rulers. So this is not news if Dalits and Muslims are persecuted in every sphere of administration.



TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen