Disagreeing with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s advisory that the media should stop using the word Dalit and replace it with Scheduled Caste, the Press Council of India has decided it will not issue a blanket ban on the use of the word Dalit. Press Council of India chairman Justice (retd) C K Prasad said “absolute prohibition is not advisable”, not even “feasible”. The decision was ratified at the Council meeting Thursday, on the eve of the National Press Day on Friday. In an advisory on August 7 to all private satellite television channels, the I&B Ministry had asked them to “refrain from using the nomenclature Dalit”, and use only the Constitutional term, ‘Scheduled Caste’.
The advisory, which had cited a direction from the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, mentioned that “in compliance with the directions of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court, the Constitutional term ‘Scheduled Caste’ in English and its appropriate translation in other national languages should alone be used for all official transaction”.
In its June order, the Nagpur bench had directed the government “to consider the question of issuing such direction to the media and take suitable decision upon it within next six weeks”.
After I&B Ministry’s advisory against use of the word Dalit by media, the Press Council of India has decided against a blanket prohibition. It states that it’s “advisable not to issue direction/ orders prohibiting the use the word ‘Dalit’ in all circumstances”. @IndianExpress pic.twitter.com/xiAsf5WjeQ
— Krishn Kaushik (@Krishn_) November 15, 2018
The Council disagreed with the I&B Ministry’s advisory and stated it had “in-depth deliberation on the Order of Hon’ble High Court of Bombay, Nagpur I&B told media to use SC instead of Dalit, Press Council chief disagrees
Bench vide its Order dated 6.6.2018 regarding refraining of the word ‘Dalit’ by the media”. The Council “opined that it is advisable not to issue direction/Orders prohibiting the use of word ‘Dalit’ in all circumstances”. Prasad told reporters that “after the Bombay High Court passed the order, that order… was forwarded to us. Government of India forwarded it to us, and we discussed the matter. And what we examined was that the Bombay High Court had not said anything”.
He said “our reading of the order is that the Bombay High Court had not said” that the Union government should ask the media to stop using the word Dalit. One department of one ministry of the Government of India, he said, had issued a circular — he was referring to the Social Welfare Department.
The High Court, he said, had asked the I&B Ministry “to consider issuing” a similar circular. “That order was forwarded to us and we have taken a decision that in these wide terms, it’s not advisable to prohibit the use of the word Dalit,” he said.
Prasad also said “may be, in a given case, the use of the term Dalit may be necessary and, therefore, we have said absolute prohibition is not feasible, it is not advisable”.
The Council, he said, felt that the use of the word depends on the case being reported. Providing a hypothetical example, he said that if the word is being used to harass a person, then the use of the word in reporting is fine; but if a person is involved in an accident and is then identified as a Dalit in a news report, it may not be appropriate.
“You can’t have general guidelines that in no circumstances the word Dalit cannot be used,” he said, adding that it has to be “seen in each and every case”.