Anti-Discrimination Laws: Definition and Meaning

About 48% of Indians, according to a TeamLease survey, have experienced discrimination of some type or another especially at workplace. The majority of biases are based on caste or religion (18%), age (22%), and gender (25%), respectively. So, to curb such discrimination, some of the anti-discrimination laws are legislated.

What is Meaning of Discrimination?

Discrimination is an inhuman act that treats different people differently. People judge other people based on their physical, financial, social, and intellectual position. Further, the most common form of discrimination can be seen at workplace. At work place, it may be motivated by a single factor or by a number of factors combined. Workplace discrimination may be based on: qualification; age; sex; incapacity, pregnancy; origin country; race or color; and religion.

As per the report, employees in Delhi, Pune, and Chennai experienced the highest rates of prejudice, while those in Ahmedabad experienced the lowest rates. Surprisingly, just 30% of the polled businesses claimed to have a formal anti-discrimination policy.

Discrimination Based on Disability

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer or other organization treats a qualified disabled person who is an applicant or employee negatively because of their disability. This unfavorable behavior can be seen in the hiring, compensation, promotion, etc. processes.

India pledged to promote, preserve, and uphold the rights recognized in the U.N. convention on the rights of people with disabilities by becoming a party to it. India has legislated different Acts to prohibit the disability discrimination. Following are some of the conditions that are considered "disabilities" under the Act: blindness, low vision, leprosy cure, hearing impairment, locomotor handicap, mental retardation, and mental illness.

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights, and Full Participation) Act of 1995 mandated that all government organizations set aside a minimum of 6% of open positions for people with disabilities. This requirement applies to all positions, regardless of position or promotion.

Caste Based Discrimination

Caste discrimination is one of the forms of prejudice that affects about 18% of the workforce in India. According to the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, anyone who moles, injures, annoys, boycotts, obstructs, or insults a member of the Scheduled Caste may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least one month and up to six months, as well as a fine. A scheduled caste member may submit a police report if they are subjected to a boycott that prevents them from working with other people, transacting business with them, receiving their services from them, or engaging in any other actions that are ordinarily done in the course of a business.

Anti-Discriminatory Laws

While some forms of discrimination, such as fair pay, sexual harassment, and discrimination based on a person's pregnancy or handicap, are prohibited in India, Other forms of job discrimination, such as those motivated by caste, religion, or ethnicity, are not prohibited in the private sector. However, in the public sector, employees are also protected from discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, color, sex, religion, or place of birth, in addition to the protections afforded to those working in the private sector.

A number of clauses in the Indian Constitution offer its citizens certain fundamental rights, including the right to equality. Equality before the law is guaranteed by Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Further, the state is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, according to Article 15. In addition to these, Article 16 states that the state is given the authority to make exceptions for members of underprivileged social strata when it comes to hiring or providing employment.

However, these special rights are only available when the state or other governmental entities, such as government offices of the central and state governments having vacancies.

Important Anti-Discrimination Legislations

Following are some of the legislations that prohibits discrimination in India −

  • The Constitution of India − The Constitution of India prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. It also guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the laws to everyone.

  • The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 − This is special legislation, legislated exclusively for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who have historically faced discrimination and social exclusion in India.

  • The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 − This act prevents and punishes the practices of untouchability and other forms of discrimination.

  • The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 − This Act is legislated with the objective to ensure that men and women receive equal pay for equal work.

  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 − This is a special legislation that strictly prevents and addresses sexual harassment of women at the workplace.

  • The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 − This Act protects the rights of transgender persons and prevents any discrimination against them.

  • The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 − This Act prohibits domestic violence against women and provides them fast legal recourse in case of domestic violence.


In case of violation of any your rights or you feel discriminated, you can choose an appropriate law. For example, if you are discriminated or/and your right is violated, you can file a writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution directly in the Supreme Court of India and under Article 226, directly in the High Court, usually where you are permanently residing or at where the incidence took place.

The Constitution also establishes a number of fundamental obligations that, while they cannot be contested in court, should ideally be carried out by the government. Article 39 of Part IV of the Constitution imposes responsibility on the state to guarantee that people's rights to have appropriate means of subsistence, housing, food, and employment in equal proportion for men and women.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

According to the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, employers are required to pay men and women workers equally for the same labor or work that is similar in nature. According to Section 5 of the Act, no employer may establish a hiring procedure that disadvantages women because of their gender for jobs that are the same as or very similar to those that are available to men, including in regards to transfers and promotions.


Based on the type of discrimination, the above discussed are some of the important anti-discriminatory laws. But, despite of these laws, discrimination still exists in various forms. Therefore, the implementation and execution of these laws needs to be strengthened and tightened. Besides, awareness also need to be created to ensure that people are aware of their rights and can access legal recourse in case of discrimination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. To whom is discrimination accountable?

Ans. Unless they can demonstrate that they took all necessary precautions to prevent the discrimination or harassment from occurring, the employer is likewise legally liable when an employee acts in a harassing or discriminatory manner. It is referred to as "vicarious liability."

Q2. What are India's laws against discrimination?

Ans. Depending upon the nature of discrimination such as caste based discrimination, sex-based discrimination, religion based discrimination, discrimination at workplace, etc. there are different laws. However, the most common is the Part III of the Indian Constitution that protects the basic human rights of every person.

Updated on: 05-Apr-2023


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