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Dr Ambedkar Contribution in Law and Justice for the upliftment of the disadvantaged

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National Seminar on Ambedkar’s Contribution for upliftment of the Disadvantaged

Date: 2nd & 3rd September, 2010, Venue: Seminar Hall, MGNIRSA

Dr Ambedkar Contribution in 

Law and Justice for the upliftment of the disadvantaged

– By B.Karthik Navayan

Programme Officer

National Dalit Forum


Understanding the nature of Indian society and the caste system before independence is essential to study the contributions of Ambedkar to Law and Justice. As the caste base Indian society has defined a particular code of conduct to persons belonging to every caste. It also sanctified how a person or persons belonging to a particular caste shall relate themselves to a person or group of persons belonging to upper castes and lower caste with reference to this own caste. Similarly the women in every caste has been ascribed a lower status than the man belonging to the same caste. Similarly the women relation ship with men and women belonging to other castes is dependent on her particular caste. The lower the caste in the higherarchy the lesser is the social freedom to the people of the caste. Though this relation appears to be relative in nature the castes belonging to the lower strata are left with the freedom that certain animals could enjoy.  Especially the saga of the downtrodden castes and the women belonging to these castes is highly deplorable.

In light of the peculiar social system existed in India before independence, Ambedkar has proposed several remedial measures as well as laws to address the exploitative social system and also to bridge the gap between various castes or social groups in the country.  Hence the present paper is an attempt to analyze the social system existed before independence and corresponding women status in the society to understand and study Ambedkar’s contributions to deal the situation through law and justice.

Caste system, untouchability:

The disadvantaged sections in Indian society are the victims of Hindu caste system i.e., untouchables who denied basic human rights by the upper caste and even denied the status of human being and treated as animals. The other dimension of caste system is the patriarchy which is the suppression of women of all castes by their own men and by the men belonging to other uppercases.

In Hindu society, caste is the most powerful instrument in determining a person’s dignity. Caste system is the result of the Hindu belief of ‘Reincarnation and Karma’. The four castes eventually developed into a social mosaic of 3000 sub-castes, with the Untouchables at the bottom of the list and out of the list in particular.  Such rigid caste system is not found anywhere in the world except in India. If a person is born into a caste, his status is predetermined and immutable. Birth decides one’s status and this cannot be altered by the talent developed by the individual or by the wealth the person may accumulate. Similarly, the caste in which a person is born predetermines what vocation the person will pursue. One has no choice. Birth decides the occupation of the person. This caste system discriminates the human persons and stratifies them into different groups. According to Manu Dharma[1], the Hindu religious code of conduct divides human persons into four Varna’s[2]

Here are the four major castes:


1. BRAHMINS (the Priestly Class)

2. KSHATRIYAS (the Warrior Class)

3. VAISYAS (the Trading Class)

4. SUDRAS (the Servants)

Situation of women:

The Manu dharma shastra denied equal status for the women along with men and put her in restrictions  “Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in Youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.”[3]


A woman has no right to study, let alone Vedas.  Women cannot utter the Veda Mantras, as they are unclean is the untruth.[4]  A Brahman, Kshatriya, or Vaisya man can sexually exploit any Shudra woman.[5] Even the act of killing a woman is explicitly justified as a minor offence for the Brahmins; equal to the killing of an animal.


Anti Caste Movements in the History:

In this kind of society, many reformers right from the Gautama Buddha[6] have worked against the caste system and untouchability. He challenged the validity of caste and Brahmanism. Mean while other social reformers like Mahathma Jyothi Rao Phule[7], Sahumaharaj[8], Periyar[9], Kabeer[10] , Santh Ravidas[11], Sri Narayanaguru[12] in Andhra Pradesh Vemana[13] and Pothuluri Vera Brahmam[14] are the social reformers who fought against the evils of Hinduism.  The movement they led was not given required relief to the victims of the caste system and patriarchy. After studying all these experiences,  Dr Ambedkar declared that it is not possible to eliminate untouchability in isolation without destroying the caste system, which in turn means destroying Hinduism, and embraced  Buddhism on 1956 October 14  along with his more than 5 lakhs followers in Nagpur.


Hence, Dr. Ambedkar’s approach towards the caste system, untouchability and patriarchy is entirely different from other social reformers. Ambedkar proposed equality and fraternity in consonance with the principles of Democracy.  His entire vision is to uplift the disadvantaged sections of the Indian society through practical means. We will see the results of the struggle by Dr Ambedkar that many of untouchables have reached highest positions. For example, K. R Narayanan becoming first Dalit President of India, Justice K.G Balakrishnan becoming first Chief justice of India is small fruits of the trees planted by Dr. BR Ambedkar.

After his return to India, Ambedkar became the most eminent leader of the historically disadvantaged sections of Indian society and was instrumental in the formation of the Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF). In the pre-independence political sphere, he made an articulate case for recognizing the socio-economic exploitation that had been suffered by those outside the caste system. However, he never chose the path of ‘agitationist’ politics and instead relied on reasoning and an appeal to moral values. When India earned its independence, Dr. Ambedkar chose to work with the Congress Party and served with distinction as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee in the Constituent Assembly, and later as the first Law Minister of the Union of India. In his later years, he gave up his position in the Union Cabinet on account of the government’s reluctance to reform family laws – which were aimed at combating the entrenched gender and caste-based discrimination in private relations”[15]

Drafting of Minimum Wages Act by Dr Ambedkar for the upliftment of the poor:

In May 1943, Indian labor conference discussed about modalities to set up constitutional body related to minimum wages in its third convention. After 1944 and 1945, Dr. BR Ambedkar (labor member in Government of India) recognized importance of special act, introduced minimum wages bill on 11th April 1946. The minimum wages act got approval after delay due to constitutional obligations to transform from bill to an act. According to this act,  minimum wages can be defined as the wages which are not only fulfilling a laborers needs but also to live with dignity, to feed his family, to meet the expenses of health and protection and education of the children gathered all together can be considered as “Minimum wages.”


Dr. BR Ambedkar facilitated this act with all necessary fundamental articles which are essential for every ordinary Indian to flourish himself and state of living by his extraordinary intelligence. It is recognizable that the in depth perception of Dr. BR Ambedkar who mentioned about the food required for a person to live in proper health condition. Dr. BR Ambedkar is a great visionary who got fame as “chief architect of the Indian constitution.” Prior to this he framed and got approval for minimum wages act.


Ambedkar as a chief architect of the Constitution of India:

Ambedkar provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination. Ambedkar argued for extensive economic and social rights for women, and also won the Assembly’s support for introducing a system of reservations of jobs in the civil services, schools and colleges for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, a system akin to affirmative action. India’s lawmakers hoped to eradicate the socio-economic inequalities and lack of opportunities for India’s depressed classes through this measure, which had been originally envisioned as temporary on a need basis. The Constitution was adopted on November 26, 1949 by the Constituent Assembly.

 Article – 17 Abolition of Untouchability:

Untouchability’’ is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of “Untouchability’’ shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. Based on this article, the Civil rights Protection Act 1965 and the Prevention of Atrocities (Scheduled castes Scheduled tribes) Act 1989 was enacted by the Parliament for the protection of Dalit rights.


Even though, caste-based discrimination and violence still remains a fact of life in Today’s India. There has been considerable progress for the historically disadvantaged sections of society. Numerous political parties have emerged on the strength of voters from the oppressed sections, and the benefits of education and economic development have also been gradually reaching these sections. The attainment of genuine social equality is of course a gradual process and may be several generations away, but it was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who set us on this path with a written constitution. It is not surprising that the invocation of his life and contributions continues to be a major factor in political mobilization, even today.

Article 13(2):

Dr. B. R Ambedkar is a great visionary towards the fundamental rights of Indian citizens. He made a provision in the constitution of India in 13(2) as  Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights.— The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.

Hindu code bill:

Ambedkar’s defense for women as the Law Minister of free India appeared in the form of the Hindu Code Bill in Parliament on 11th April 1947, which invited strong opposition from the Hindu orthodoxy in post-independent India. The Bill provided for several basic rights to women.

It sought to abolish different marriage systems prevalent among Hindus and to establish monogamy as the only legal system. It aimed at conferment of right to property and adoption of women. It provided for restitution of conjugal rights and judicial separation. It attempted to unify the Hindu code in tune with progressive and modern thought[16]

In 1948 when the Hindu Code Bill was introduced in parliament and debated on the floor of the house, the opposition was strong against the Bill. Ambedkar tried his level best to defend the Bill by pointing out the drawbacks of Indian society and arguing that the ideals in the Bill are based on the Constitutional principles of equality, liberty and fraternity and that in the Indian society characterized by the caste system and the oppression of women since women are deprived of equality, a legal frame work is necessary for a social change in which women have equal rights with men. He also pointed out that the aim of the Bill was “to codify the rules of Hindu Law which are scattered in innumerable decisions of High Courts and of the Privy Council which form bewildering motley to the common man”. However, the Bill could not withstand the opposition from the Hindu orthodoxy. Their major argument was that the Bill was an attempt at the “demolition of the entire structure and fabric of Hindu Society. The very foundations not only of one pillar but of all the pillars on which the Hindu society rests are shaken”. In reality, the Bill was a threat to patriarchy on which traditional family structure, was bounded and that was the major reason behind the opposition. Therefore, on the eve of the first elections in 1951 Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dropped the Bill by saying that there was too much opposition. On this issue, the then Law Minister Dr.Ambedkar resigned. Even he is ready to give up the status for the cause of disadvantaged


Main aim of Dr. BR Ambedkar is to uproot the evil of deep rooted caste system and to transform this country from uncivilized state to civilized state. The Indian constitution is evolved as a result of Dr. BR Ambedkar’s relentless efforts and strategic approach to the system. The provisions made by Dr. BR Ambedkar by fighting against British rulers and the articles included in the constitution of free India enabled Dalits and Women to present day developed state. The all round development of disadvantage groups in India is only because of Dr. BR Ambedkar.

Today’s tragedy is that the rulers of our nation are not showing any interest for the effective implementation of constitution. Manu introduced caste system in India. Dr. Ambedkar introduced caste annihilation system in India. Indian Hindu orthodoxy stood by Manu. Ambedkar stood for Dalits and women development in India. Ambedkar defeated Manu through Constitution and incorporating several articles in it. Ambedkar was successful in fixing the Hindu orthodox people’s attitude and behavior as enshrined in their holy books towards others as unjust and punishable through various provisions in the India laws and the constitution.

The constitution of India provided to all its subjects right to live with honor and dignity. But the caste and untouchability is still playing effective role from various corners of the of the society. The constitution gave right to education, right to adult franchise to all, as against this being the privilege of a few in the pre independent India. But the era of globalization has privatized education. Constitution of India gave right to health. But the privatized and corporatized hospitals are far away from the reach of common people. Though the constitution gave right to work, but all Industries are mechanized with less and or no animated technologies leaving millions unemployed.

Hence India shall follow the principles of Dr. Ambedkar and nationalize land and industries. So the need of the hour is to implement the constitution in its true spirit. It will enable the Indian society to overcome all social and economic evils that the Nation is facing. The constitution was designed in such a way that all its citizens are equal before it as “one man one vote and one vote one value”

[1] Which legitimizes the untouchability, denial of freedom, self respect, right to education, property to the dalits and women

[2].Varna means color, the Caste

[3] Manusmriti IX.3

[4] Manusmriti IX.18

[5] Manusmriti IX.25

[6] A spiritual teacher from ancient India who founded Buddhism

[7] Jotiba Phule was an activist, thinker, social reformer, writer, philosopher, theologist, scholar, editor and revolutionary from Maharashtra, India in the nineteenth century

[8] Shahu IV (also known as Rajarshi Shahu) (26 June 1874 – 6 May 1922) was the first Maharaja of the Indian princely state of Kolhapur between 1884 and 1922. He was also known as Rajarshi Shahu Chhatrapati and Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj.

[9] Periyar, was a Dravidian social reformer and politician from Thamilanadu, who founded the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam

[10]Kabir (1440—1518) was a mystic poet and saint of India, whose writings have greatly influenced the Bhakti movement.

[11] Guru or Bhagat Ravidas was a north Indian Sant mystic of the Bhakti movement who was active in the 15th century

[12] Sri Narayana Guru (1855–1928), also known as Sree Narayana Guru Swami, was a Hindu saint, sage, prophet and social reformer of India

[13] A 14th century Telugu poet. His poems were written in the popular vernacular of Telugu and questioned inequality and untouchability

[14]  Born in 1610 in Kadapa District of Andra Pradesh. He is the author of Kalagnana, a collection of predictions about future or prophecies

[15] Dr. B.R. Ambedkar memorial lecture
( London – June 13, 2009), ‘judicial activism’ and the enforcement of socio-economic rights – the Indian experience
by Hon’ble Mr. K.G. Balakrishnan, chief justice of India

[16]  Samyuktha a journal of women studies


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