UK caste discrimination legislation: Implications for Indian community organisations

The Equality Act 2010 creates a potential new ground of legal action for discrimination on grounds of ‘caste’. Section 9(5) of the Equality Act provides the power to make a statutory instrument for caste to be “an aspect of race”. This will allow legal claims for damages to be brought for caste discrimination. The process for bringing the legislation into effect has started. This note provides an introduction to the caste provision and outlines its anticipated effects, mainly for Indian community organisations in the UK. It has been drafted on behalf of the Coalition for Dialogue (CfD), a group which believes that legislation is not the answer to solving problems and advocates the use of dialogue instead.

1. How does the Equality Act 2010 incorporate caste?
The provision on ‘caste’ is contained in the Equality Act 2010, section 9(5), which potentially expands the ground of ‘race’ to include ‘caste’. The wording makes caste “an aspect of race”, which indicates that the coverage of the Act with respect to caste will be as wide as that applied to ‘race’, and without the wide exemptions applied to other ‘protected characteristics’, such as religion.

2. Will the caste provision come into effect? The original wording of section 9(5) of the Equality Act made it discretionary for a Minister to make an order making caste and an aspect of race. The Act was amended in April 2013 to make it mandatory for the Minister to make an order adding ‘caste’ to ‘race’. Unless, the caste provision is repealed, the Minister is therefore obliged to bring it into effect. The government is therefore currently examining how to implement the obligation with more detailed secondary legislation.

3. What evidence is there of caste discrimination? Some of those within and outside of the British parliament who advocated for the legislation have claimed that there is ample evidence of caste discrimination in the UK, which makes it necessary for such legislation to be in place. They claim that reports produced by NGOs that support Dalit causes, and officially sponsored studies in the UK by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) (2010) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) (2014), show such evidence. The EHRC has already declared itself in favour of the necessity of the caste discrimination provision. Recent programmes on BBC radio stations navratri2suggest that the campaign to have the legislation brought into effect is picking up. For example, on 27 September 2014, the Nihal radio programme on the BBC’s Asian Network suggested that organisers of Navratri events would be in potential breach of the law.

4. What kind of legal actions could organisations face? The Equality Act allows for civil legal actions to be brought by claiming an act of discrimination, whether it is ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ discrimination, victimisation or harassment. Civil actions can arise alleging the occurrence of any act of discrimination in the UK, no matter what the nationality of origin or the location of the head office of an organisation. An action for caste discrimination could therefore be directed to any Indian organisation carrying out any of its activities in the UK. Such civil legal actions can include claims for compensation, including for injury to feelings, aggravated damages for malicious behaviour, and interest on any compensation. In an employment case, an Employment Tribunal can also recommend that the employer take action to correct the situation or limit the damage done to the claimant. The EHRC also has legal powers to conduct investigations of any organization and these could be extended to cover caste discrimination. Indian organisations could face specific investigations or other intrusive actions on grounds that caste discrimination is suspected of being practiced by them or their office holders, employees, members, etc. It is unlikely that similar investigations would be made of non-Indian organisations i.e. those run by and for the benefit of members of other cultural communities. Investigations are just one method that the EHRC enforces the legislation. Other methods include inquiries, assessments, issuing unlawful act notices, and compliance notices

5. Are there any safeguards against frivolous actions? The civil legal actions allowed under the Equality Act 2010 do not require permission of any official body. Anyone can potentially make a claim of caste discrimination without having to go through, say, the Crown Prosecution Service, which approves the vast majority of criminal cases after assessing whether there is a public interest for bringing a prosecution. In the case of caste discrimination claims, there will be no such test of public interest, and no external body to assess in advance the wisdom of bringing a case or the chances of its success.

6. In what areas can legal actions be brought? The Equality Act 2010 covers a range of areas including as employment, partnerships, entry to a profession, provision of goods and services, housing, education, bodies conferring qualifications, trade unions, professional or trade organisations, exercise of public functions, local authorities, and the disposal and management of premises. Employment cases are litigated in employment tribunals; others may be tried in a county court (sheriff court in Scotland) or a forum specific to a field such as the military, immigration, or special needs education.

Equality Act 2010 image7. What about legal advice and representation? No legal aid is available for bringing or defending a claim. A claimant may however be assisted financially or otherwise by a law centre, the EHRC, or any other body that has an interest in the matter. Law firms may represent claimants on a no-win-no-fee basis, while this is unlikely to be available to those defending against a claim. Many solicitors firms in the UK specialise in damages claims with no up-front fees (i.e. no-win-no-fee basis) and they advertise widely in the Asian media. One danger is that any number of spurious claims could result against Indian organisations in the UK as a result of the caste discrimination provision, especially when it is known that damages claims can be made.

8. What precedents exist for the Equality Act’s way of dealing with caste? The model chosen in the Equality Act for caste discrimination claims makes the UK a unique example of using its civil law anti-discrimination legislation for targeting caste discrimination. An individual instance will presumably be sufficient to found a claim of ‘caste discrimination’ under the Equality Act; no pattern of practice need be shown. The Indian legislation is based on a quite different model because it is focused on preferential quotas (reservations) for groups, which are specifically listed in legislation. The Indian legislation is not an invitation for an open-ended set of litigation claims as the UK legislation is. There is no tested model of the kind the UK is due to implement, and the Indian case law will not help establish guidance for when an act constitutes an act of ‘caste discrimination’. UK lawyers and judges will effectively be going alone into an area which they scarcely understand, and where the social science literature and expertise is confused. As our critique shows, confusion on the subject of caste can be seen clearly in the reports of the academic investigation commissioned by the EHRC. Pakistan and Bangladesh, the second and third largest South Asian countries, have no specific legislation on caste. India also has criminal laws on caste atrocities, while Nepal passed a law in 2011 focused on criminal punishments, the Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2068.

9. Will your organisation be insured against legal claims? Indian organisations would have to check whether their insurance policies cover claims for caste discrimination. They may have to ensure that they are updated so that legal costs of defending claims, including any damages, can be paid. Even if the defence of a case and payment of damages is covered by an insurer, it may be subject to a ‘reasonable prospects of success’ test. This could mean that an insurer is not willing to pay for defence or damages costs arising. There may also be issues about insurers paying for the choice of solicitors, while solicitors and barristers will not have the necessary expertise to defend a claim of caste discrimination. Especially given that the caste provision is so new and not yet in effect, it is anticipated that few if any lawyers have the necessary expertise to defend a legal claim. Solicitors may have an incentive to settle a claim rather than defend it fully, still leaving a defendant organisation liable for damages and a reduced chance for vindication.

10. How will liability for caste discrimination be established? The burden of proof initially lies with whoever is alleging the discrimination, but the adducing of facts by a claimant can lead to the reversal of such a burden to the defendant organisation (Equality Act 2010, section 136). This means that the defendant organisation must adequately defend the claim by showing that it is not proper to draw an inference of discrimination, or else judgment can be entered against the defendant organisation. Given the civil law context, a low standard of proof will apply. A claim can succeed if, on a balance of probabilities, it can be shown the caste discrimination was present. This is unlike the criminal law beyond-reasonable-doubt standard for guilt or innocence. The possible reversal of burden of proof and the low standard of proof might mean that a claim of caste discrimination against a defendant Indian organisation is much more likely to succeed. This may mean insurers not willing to back the costs of defending a claim and could result in legal advice to settle a case, again depriving the organisation a chance to be vindicated. Settlement of a claim may also be thought wise so as not to incur negative publicity against an organisation or its officers or employees.

11. Why is it important to have legal vindication for a defendant organisation? Although it may be a natural response to avoid publicity in a claim of discrimination, and therefore to settle a case, vindication of a defendant organisation through court proceedings can be critical in establishing just what went on in the background. Unresolved cases can easily be interpreted as if implying that the organisation in question was acting unlawfully or unethically. Publicity about a case may hurt the activities of an organisation and potentially put its eligibility for charity status in question. The use made of the well-publicised Begraj case shows just this. It involved allegations of caste discrimination against a law firm because of the inter-caste marriage of an employee. Although the case was interrupted because a judge had to rescue herself on account of potential bias, the interpretation given is that the case is illustrative of the defective nature of the current law and as instantiating the necessity of bringing the clause on caste discrimination into effect. The impression has thus persisted that the law firm had engaged in caste discrimination and that that would have been exposed only if the law then had applied explicitly to caste. This kind of incorrect emphasis placed upon the Begraj case by, one of the authors of the EHRC reports and self-declared supporter of the caste provision, Annapurna Waughray in the New Law Journal.

12. Who is exposed to legal action and investigation? The caste provision exposes Indian organisations and those who work within an organisation to charges of and litigation concerning caste discrimination. The legislation therefore sets up one particular group as potential discriminators, not the generality of the population. It could be argued that the Act’s application to caste is therefore discriminatory and that it violates the Human Rights Act 1998 (and in turn the European Convention of Human Rights, ECHR) and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for singling out one group for exposure to legal action.

13. What exactly is ‘caste’? No definition of caste was provided during or since the passing of the legislation, although various allusions were made in and outside parliament as to what caste is. It should be noted, however, that the Explanatory Notes to section 9 of the Equality Act are suggestive of a definition as follows:

The term “caste” denotes a hereditary, endogamous (marrying within the group) community associated with a traditional occupation and ranked accordingly on a perceived scale of ritual purity. It is generally (but not exclusively) associated with South Asia, particularly India, and its diaspora. It can encompass the four classes (varnas) of Hindu tradition (the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra communities); the thousands of regional Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Muslim or other religious groups known as jatis; and groups amongst South Asian Muslims called biradaris. Some jatis regarded as below the varna hierarchy (once termed “untouchable”) are known as Dalit.

The legislation therefore has within its sights concepts such as varna, jati and biraderi as being indicative of caste groups. The reference to “ritual purity” may well be found to be offensive to many Sikhs. The legislation specifically refers to South Asia and, within that region, India is the only country mentioned. Christians and Muslims are also mentioned. While not all of the legislative preferences on caste are extended to members of these two groups in India, it is notable that they are mentioned as potential beneficiaries of protection in UK law, thus laying the groundwork to argue for their wider recognition in India too. Two points should be noted, however. First, state-based and central legislation in India does recognise members of these groups as entitled to preferences extended to ‘Other Backward Classes’ and, second, wide preferences are extended within and outside the legal system in India to members of both groups on the basis that they are ‘minorities’. It has not gone unnoticed that it was an Anglican Christian Bishop, Lord Harries, who introduced the caste provision into the UK’s Equality Act. Despite what the explanatory notes state (above), the EHRC’s reports on caste discrimination show that there is lack of clarity about what ideas expressed in South Asian languages the English word ‘caste’ picks out. The term ‘caste’ comes from European culture and Indian cultural phenomena have been mapped onto ideas about European social structures. This can only distort the Indian phenomena, as previous attempts to do so have demonstrated. A study commissioned by the Government Equalities Office (currently underway) is also seeking to find out from respondents what terms the word ‘caste’ equates to and how respondents may be asked questions about their caste without creating offence. This is a further indication that legislators and the government had no clarity as to what they were legislating about. However, this could still mean that the legislation will come into effect, and Indian community organisations will be particularly exposed to litigation. Our position remains that there can be no coherence to the idea of ‘caste’ or ‘caste system’ as shown in the proceedings of the conference on Caste: Critiquing Colonial and Contemporary Constructions, 5 April 2014.

14. What are the legal consequences of the current knowledge about caste? As our response points out, the EHRC’s reports on caste discrimination could not coherently spell out what caste is. In fact, the report writers make a virtue out of imprecision, which cannot be acceptable for legislation imposing liabilities, extra costs, penalties and uncertainties on Indian organisations. Any Minister who wants to give effect to the caste provision may find that there is no coherent basis upon which to do so, but may yet leave the matter to judges, given that the legislation imposes a duty on the Minister to bring the caste provision into effect. This would not be a solution because judges too will be exposed to the same problem. As noted (para. 8 above), the fact that there is no case law on caste discrimination anywhere in the world is only one of the hurdles that British judges face. The lack of an adequate social scientific basis for studying caste means that it has become an extremely slippery concept, but yet with the potential to do a lot of legalised damage to Indian community organisations because of the uncertainty it brings. The very uncertain nature of what caste is makes it unpredictable as to what organisations have to do to protect themselves against claims of discrimination, which will have knock-on effects for many of their activities.

15. Does an Indian organisation supporting a particular group fall foul of the law? The caste discrimination provision introduces a great deal of uncertainty about whether an organisation is acting lawfully if it caters to the needs of a particular group such as a samaaj, gnati, etc. Further uncertainty results if the organisation is staffed, or if offices can be held, only or primarily by members of that group. In the case of an organisation that employs individuals or elects office holders from the same group, in future, there could be a disincentive to employ or elect on grounds that the organisation would be exposed to claims of caste discrimination by fellow employees, officers, or service receivers. Such problems may result in the seizing-up of important work done by an organisation. Schedule 16(1) of the Equality Act 2010 does allow an exception for so-called ‘single characteristic associations’ but the exception applies only to the association’s rules of admission for membership, its treatment of guests, and its provision of a benefit, facility or service. It is silent on other matters such as election of officials and appointment of employees. Assuming the same type of exception would be extended to caste discrimination once the legislation is effected, Indian organisations may yet be exposed to claims of unlawful caste discrimination in their various activities.

16. Will holding of events e.g. for Navratri be permitted under the Equality Act? The Equality Act is currently full of traps for Indian organisations, which means that even if one part of the legislation might afford an exception to a general rule of non-discrimination, another part might make an organisation liable for virtually the same activity. Let us assume that the holding a Navratri event restricted mainly to members of one group may well fall within the exception for ‘single characteristic associations’ in Schedule 16(1) because it applies to a benefit, facility or service conferred upon only members of that group (see para. 13). However, an organisation may still be found to act unlawfully for discriminatory disposal of premises under Part 4 of the Equality Act. Even if some non-members are admitted as guests, there may be a potential violation of the Equality Act because a claimant could still assert that the default position is non-admission to the premises of non-members. Therefore, a refusal to admit to a Navratri event could still amount to unlawful discrimination. Wide exceptions including for the disposal of premises (and other activities) are, however, available to ‘organisations relating to religion or belief’ under the Equality Act, Schedule 23, para. 2. A broad exception is also provided to religious charities under section 193(5): “It is not a contravention of this Act for a charity to require members, or persons wishing to become members, to make a statement which asserts or implies membership or acceptance of a religion or belief; and for this purpose restricting the access by members to a benefit, facility or service to those who make such a statement is to be treated as imposing such a requirement.” An organisation may thus lawfully restrict admission to Jews for an important Jewish ritual taking place on certain premises (because it is ‘religious’), but another organisation may not restrict admission to, for example, Patidars for Navratri because that may amount to a caste-based restriction, even if claimed to be ‘religious’. A court would be free to decide that a ‘religious’ event led to caste discrimination (see also para. 18 below on the religion point).

17. Will there be an impact for charity status? The breadth of the Equality Act provisions may have an effect on the charity status of any Indian organisation. Those organisations wishing to CCEW-logo-smallset up newly as charitable will have to both prove that they benefit the public and prove their Equality Act credentials. Research has shown that charity organisations, especially the smaller ones are ill-equipped to address the complicated legal questions that arise under the Act. Under section 193 of the Equality Act, a charity can restrict its support to those who share a ‘protected characteristic’ (i.e. race, sex, religion, etc.) and thus exclude other protected groups as long as the provision of benefits is (a) a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, or (b) for the purpose of preventing or compensating for a disadvantage linked to the protected characteristic. If a charity Indian organisation wished to provide a benefit for members of one samaj or gnati (e.g. hiring of halls at a concessionary rate for members, organising daytrips to the Emirates Air Line urban cable car at Greenwich for elderly members of that same organisation, organising sporting matches for members, etc.) it would have to establish that its restriction is justified because it is proportionate and for a legitimate aim (or under (b) that it is compensating for disadvantage linked to that protected characteristic). The scope for external bodies including lawyers and courts second guessing as to proportionality and legitimacy means the introduction of a great deal of uncertainty whether any activity which an organisation pursues is any longer lawful. The risk is that if the organisation cannot establish a ‘defence’ of the type mentioned in section 193 it may fall foul of the caste discrimination provision and there is a risk to its charity status. The withdrawal or rejection of charitable status will have severe consequences for any organisation to raise funds and continue its activities.

18. Could an organisation managing a temple continue to employ a Brahmin pujari? Ritual specialists who are Brahmins often have the necessary skills required for performing the daily rituals in a temple, rituals of marriage and other samskaras, certain pujas etc. Thus, it will be common to see the pujari employed in a temple being a Brahmin. Under the Equality Act, such employment may be open to challenge because it can be argued that unlawful caste discrimination is taking place during a decision to employ such a specialist. The Equality Act can therefore be used to undermine the ritual core of traditional Indian practices. A justification might be available if the charge is one of ‘indirect discrimination’ (i.e. that the criterion is “a proportionate means of achievin1507573_10152080922954541_443177159_ng a legitimate aim” (section 19)), but if the charge is one of ‘direct discrimination’ under section 13 of the Act there is no justification possible. In the latter case a claimant might simply say that he was not selected for the job of a temple pujari because he is not a Brahmin and that could conceivably be held by a court to be ‘direct discrimination’. An organisation might also assert that the purpose of the job falls within the religion exemption (Schedule 9, Part 1, para. 3), but it might be said in response that the purpose may be secondary if the effect is one of caste discrimination.

19. What exceptions will apply to caste? The connection of ‘caste’ to ‘race’ is one that continues to be lobbied for hard within UN organs including the World Conference Against Racism of 2001 in South Africa, when the Indian government successfully defeated a proposal to make caste an aspect of race. The UK legislation, however, goes on to achieve the same. The writers of the EHRC reports (see para. 13) also suggest that minimal exceptions should be put in place for caste discrimination unlike the wide ones that exist, say, for religious organisations and religion-based employers, which are extensively allowed to make distinctions and preferences on grounds of religion. The report writers justify the narrow application of any exemptions for caste by stating that race discrimination has limited exemptions and that, since caste is made “an aspect of race”, any exemptions for caste should also be very limited. This would have the effect of exposing Indian organisations to the widest possible scope the legislation could have and a commensurately increased likelihood of litigation and investigation. In the case of R(E) v Governing Body of JFS [2009] UKSC 15, a majority of their Lordships in the Supreme Court refused to accept the argument of the school in question that its admission policy was religious because it complied with guidance issued by the Office of the Chief Rabbi as to who is a Jew. Their Lordships held instead that the stricter matrilineal test for Jewishness (i.e. mother should not herself be a convert) applied fell foul of the race discrimination provision. The decision has attracted much criticism, not least from Jews, inter alia on grounds that it imposes a Christian standard for assessing Jewishness.

20. Are legal claims of caste discrimination likely to succeed? Our assessment is that judges will be all too ready on the basis of alleged facts to assume that caste discrimination is made out. In addition to the problems surrounding the burden and standard of proof (para. 10), there is undeniably a presumption in European culture at large that Indians discriminate on grounds of caste. It is one of the strongest stereotypes of Indian culture held by Europeans. Europeans invariably bring up the ‘caste system’ when they are conversing with Indians. Judges, who are also educated within the same cultural milieu, will not be immune to such stereotyping. This effectively lowers the applicable balance-of-probabilities standard of proof, and the burden of proof will be upon the Indian organisation to defend itself against what will effectively be a presumption that caste discrimination has occurred. This exposes Indians and their organisations to further discrimination in the operation of the law and, as noted (paras. 9-10), disadvantages them in being able to insure against caste-based claims. The existing case law shows just such a tendency on the part of Employment Tribunal (ET) judges. In one recent case at ET level, a judge allowed an extension of the Equality Act to caste even though the caste provision has not been brought into effect. This underlines the willingness of judges not only to ‘see’ caste upon mere allegation, but also to accept claims to extend current legislation without the required parliamentary imprimatur, and without having the slightest understanding of the culture at issue or how legal claims can be set up. Cases of race and religious discrimination are currently conspicuous by their lack of success. They are the least likely to succeed in comparison to other Equality Act grounds (see official figures cited Bob Hepple, Equality: The new legal framework. Oxford: Hart, 2011 p. 158). We believe the exact opposite of caste claims because of hidden presumptions and stereotypes, which will work against Indian organisations.

21. Will organisations have to do caste monitoring? An open question is whether monitoring on the basis of caste will have to be done and by whom. Monitoring of protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act is currently recommended good practice for the private sector and mandatory for public sector organisations. Additional questions are raised for caste. Would only Indian organisations be asking the caste question of their employees, members, service receivers, etc. or would it apply to any context where a significant number of people in contact with the organisations are Indian? How should respondents decide what their caste is among the many terms related to kinship and belonging which exist in Indian culture (see para. 22 & 23 below), and is an organisation obliged to agree about the choice a service receiver makes no matter how unreasonable? What costs are involved in this? As far as we know, no costs assessment has been made of this or any other aspect of implementing the caste provision (see para. 26 below). Government Ministers admit to being reluctant to going down the route of ‘caste monitoring’, but the matter has not yet been decided one way or another. Caste monitoring could, however, be separated from ‘caste profiling’ which may yet ensue given the need for Indian organisations to be alert to the possibility of claims of caste discrimination.

22. What aspect of a person’s identity is caste? An example might help to drive home the point about how difficult it would be in practice to decide on what the relevant ‘caste’ identity should be. Could a person of Gujarati heritage who is a Halari Visa Oshwal legitimately answer to a question on ‘caste’ whether (1) he is an Oshwal, (2) whether he is a Visa Oshwal, (3) whether he is a Vania/Bania, or (4) whether he is a Vaishya? Would an alleged act of discrimination between a Visa Oshwal and a Dasa Oshwal constitute a matter coming within the legislation? Such questions would never end and the answers to such questions (in so far as they do not become absurd) have nowhere been considered. These are some of the problems the legislation exposes without providing any hint of a solution.

23. Would only ‘higher’ castes be subject to claims of discrimination? It remains an open question whether the litigant’s own caste identity only is germane to potentially experience discrimination. It is also unclear whether the identity of the defendant party would matter, i.e. whether they necessarily have to belong to a supposed ‘higher’ caste to engage in discrimination. Evidence from parts of India suggests that rich members of ‘Other Backward Castes’ category behave atrociously towards both Brahmins and Dalits. The Indian criminal legislation assumes however the perpetrators of caste ‘atrocities’ can only be those who do not belong to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (see The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, especially sections 3 & 4). On the one hand, it may well be, as already happens in race discrimination cases, that the identity of the alleged discriminator or complainant will not always be the deciding factor. In other words, currently, a white person can equally bring a claim of race discrimination against a member of an ethnic minority as the other way around; or a white person could bring a claim of race discrimination against another white person for, say, ‘instructing’ the former to discriminate. The same applies in sex discrimination cases whereby men could potentially bring legal actions. On the other hand, it is unclear whether one should presume that a ‘higher’ caste person can initiate a case against a ‘lower’ caste person for discrimination even if it is the established reason because, according to the authorities, caste discrimination is solely motivated by supposed caste rank in an alleged hierarchy of ritual purity (see para. 13).

24. What impact could the legislation have on behaviour? The disproportionate threat of litigation against some Indians and their organisations has already been noted. A Hindu employer, or anyone else potentially exposed to legal action for caste discrimination, might well insist on knowing the caste identity of every person they deal with, record all interaction, monitor on-going relationships, and create additional structures for complaints and adjudication. There will be no scope for the kind of innocent interaction that took place so far when the law on caste discrimination was not in play. There is significant potential to disrupt or make vile or poisonous relations between those providing a benefit and the receivers of that benefit. Are all acts of unfairness or injustice, which surely occur for many reasons (like personality clashes) now to be automatically imputed to caste even if the alleged accused did not even know the caste of the plaintiff? The legislation also creates potentially damaging divisions among Indians because they will quickly comprehend the financial motive behind legal action against members of their own caste and resent it, which may compound non-actionable discrimination in the private sphere.

25. May converts to Christianity or Islam bring a claim?
If a ‘low’ caste (e.g. Dalit) convert to Christianity or Islam feels discriminated against, will they only need to argue it is their antecedent identity that motivated any accused party’s alleged act of discrimination? This seems to be explicit purpose of the legislation, i.e. to enable Hindu converts to other faiths to bring legal action for compensation by alleging caste discrimination. If the legislation is only aimed at Hindus, though the aggrieved party presumably need not be a lower caste ‘Hindu’ at all, it would compound what amounts to an asymmetrical and discriminatory impact of the legislation on some categories of defendants over others.

26. Have legislators assessed the extra costs on Indian organisations?
Although Indian organisations (and businesses, etc.) are presumed the likely discriminators under the legislation, parliament and government have nowhere assessed nor justified the extra costs incurred to such businesses and employers in having to defend legal actions based on caste grounds. Studies have not been conducted of the likely extra costs involved in defending actions against such legislation or the extra costs of insuring Indian organisations, businesses, etc. against such claims, which could also mean a further and discriminatory extra costs burden. The broad impact assessment carried out on the Equality Act 2010 makes no specific reference to the cost effects of the caste provision on Indian organisations or businesses. In other words, the legislation has been introduced without any of the usual safeguards of an impact assessment upon employers, businesses, professionals, or other service providers.

Last updated, 22 November 2014

Dr. Prakash Shah
Academic Chair, Coalition for Dialogue
Reader in Culture and Law, Queen Mary, University of London

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1 Response to UK caste discrimination legislation: Implications for Indian community organisations

  1. Pingback: A House of Lords Debate on Poverty and Caste Discrimination in India: Continuing Foreign Interference in India’s Internal Affairs | IndiaFacts

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