The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to consider telling media outlets to stop using the word ‘Dalit’ in news stories in light of a circular by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment which advises the Union and state governments not to use the word for someone belonging to the Scheduled Caste.
A bench of Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice ZA Haq was hearing a PIL filed two years ago by one Pankaj Meshram who sought removal of the word ‘Dalit’ from all government documents.
In November 2017, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment expressed its desire to pass necessary orders for removal of the said word from official documents during a hearing in the case. Finally, the Director, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, issued a circular dated March 15, 2018, advising the Central and State governments to refrain from using the word ‘Dalit’.
Appearing on behalf of the State of Maharashtra, AGP DP Thakare submitted that the State is also in the process of taking a decision on the matter. Petitioner’s advocate SR Narnaware said that in light of the said circular, media needs to be directed to stop using the word and pointed at respondents Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as well as Press Council of India.
Thus, the court urged the I&B Ministry to consider directing the media to refrain from using the said word. The court said:
“As Central Government has issued necessary directions to its officers, we find that it can also issue suitable directions as per law to the respondent no. 2 (Press Council) and the media to refrain from using the same word. Various institutes in the field are not before us and hence, we direct respondent no. 1 (I&B) to consider the question of issuing such direction to the media and take suitable decision upon it within next six weeks.”