India is amongst the few regimes with a constitutional commitment to a liberal democracy that nevertheless lack a comprehensive, multi-ground, antidiscrimination legislation. The Bhopal Declaration issued in 2002 seeking to chart a new course for Dalits welcomed ‘winds of change the world over’ towards inclusion and diversity and against discrimination. A conversation on the need and shape of an antidiscrimination law began after the Sachar Committee recommended it in 2006. While the UPA government did briefly consider setting up an Equal Opportunity Commission, the idea was quietly buried. The aborted Equal Opportunity Commission Bill had been criticised as an overly-bureaucratic response that would have failed to substantively address the problem of discrimination. Some recent political developments, especially the debate on intolerance, underscore the need to revisit the issue.
The Centre for Policy Research is pleased to invite you to a one-day workshop on the 18th of December 2015 to discuss a model Equality Bill, drafted by Tarunabh Khaitan (author of A Theory of Discrimination Law, OUP 2015). The Bill is designed with NCT-Delhi in mind, but can be adapted for other states or the centre. The policy debate has been going on for about a decade. It is hoped that the existence of a draft Bill will give concrete shape to this conversation and draw attention to details. The workshop is very much intended as a preliminary one, and we hope that you will bring your insights and expertise to improving the design of the proposed legislation. RSVP to <firstname.lastname@example.org> for catering purposes.
10.30: Michael Kirby, Antidiscrimination Legislation: A View from Australia
10.45: Tarunabh Khaitan, Overview of the Draft Equality Bill
11.15: Panel 1: Protected Characteristics, Protected Groups and Disadvantaged Groups
Chair: Vidhu Verma
Panellists: Jayna Kothari and Saumya Uma
13.15: Panel 2: Duties & Duty-Bearers
Chair: Shyam Babu
Panellists: Vidhu Verma and Siddharth Narrain
14.45: Panel 3: Remedies and Enforcement
Chair: Jayna Kothari
Panellists: Shyam Babu and Saumya Uma
Highlights of the draft Bill:
- The Bill creates civil liability for acts of discrimination.
- Discrimination includes direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
- Aggravated discrimination includes boycott, segregation and discriminatory violence.
- The duty to refrain from discrimination applies not only to public authorities and private persons performing a public function but also to all employers, landlords, traders and service providers (whether public or private).
- Everyone has a duty to refrain from aggravated discrimination.
- The protection against discrimination and aggravated discrimination is (with a few exceptions) available symmetrically to dominant as well as disadvantaged groups and to majorities as well as minorities: to men as well as women, Hindus as well as Muslims, brahmins as well as dalits.
- Public authorities and private persons performing public functions have a diversification duty to progressively increase the participation of substantially excluded disadvantaged groups.
- Public authorities have a duty to give due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination.
- Voluntary affirmative action in favour of disadvantaged group is permitted if proportionate.
- District courts designated as Equality Courts have the primary responsibility for civil enforcement.
- A permanent and independent Equality Commission has the responsibility to promote the objectives of the Bill and aid its implementation.
- Protection orders against aggravated discrimination may be obtained from the Magistrate’s court.
Jayna Kothari is an Advocate in Bangalore and a founding member of the Centre for Law & Policy Research
Michael Kirby is a former Judge of the High Court of Australia
Saumya Uma is an Assistant Professor at the National Law School, Bangalore and Assistant Director of the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy
Siddharth Narrain is an Advocate and a Research Associate at Sarai—Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
Shyam Babu is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research
Tarunabh Khaitan is an Associate Professor in Law at Wadham College, Oxford
Vidhu Verma is a Professor, Centre for Political Studies, JNU
Press Coverage of the workshop.