“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.
Article 17 of the Constitution of India (Article 11 of the Draft Constitution) was debated in the Constituent Assembly on the 29th of November 1949. There Assembly was broadly in agreement over the inclusion of the Article in the Constitution. Members brought forth the deeply entrenched nature of untouchability as a social practice and the need to unequivocally reject the same. The inclusion of the Article was appreciated for its symbolic value and for its provision of criminalising Untouchability. Some members however sought clarifications about the term ‘Untouchability. They wanted to know if practices such as the barring of contact with menstruating women and the quarantine of individuals with diseases would also come under the ambit of ‘untouchability’. This was not clarified by anyone in the Assembly, however, it seemed implied that untouchability was exclusively focussed on the caste based social practice prevalent in Indian Society that the term is widely known to denote.