ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Higher Judiciary in India and its Role in the Prevention of Atrocities against Dalits


Pindiga Ashok Kumar - Central European Universoty, Budapest, Hungary


39 – Citizens at Risk: Caste, Violence and State Institutions in India


 The higher judiciary (Supreme Court &High Courts) in India has clashed with the legislature since the day Constitution was promulgated. It has strenuously scrutinized the distributive policies to ensure social and economic justice for the Dalits (former untouchables). This paper argues that the higher judiciary’s resistance to redistributive land reforms has indirectly contributed to the violence on Dalits because ownership of agricultural land and atrocities on Dalits correlate. This is visible with how landlessness has made Dalits the victim of massacres in Chunduru, Karamchedu, Kilvermani and BathniTola villages. High Courts in these massacres have absolved the perpetrators, mostly the landed gentry, even though there was an abundance of unimpeachable evidence. The Scheduled Caste and Tribe Prevention of Atrocity Act 1989(POA) deters the upper castes from perpetuating violence on Dalits —the Supreme Court in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan (2018) case tried to make the legislation ineffective by holding the clause which denied bail to the accused under POA as unconstitutional. However, the Parliament quickly nullified the judgement by passing an amendment. The judges in the higher judiciary in India (Supreme Court and High Courts) are predominantly from privileged and propertied castes. This paper further proposes that unless and until the judges’ appointment process is reformed!The higher judiciary will continue to impede the social and economic progress of the Dalits.