news Saturday, May 23, 2015 - 05:30

  Earlier this week, media reports emerged that a Mumbai resident was refused a job by a leading diamond trading firm because he was a Muslim. Following the outrage in social media, several other such advertisements have been brought to attention which discriminate on the basis of religion. "The Constitution assures us against discrimination by the state, but as such we do not have a law which protects citizens against discrimination by the private sector." On Wednesday, Management graduate Zeeshan Khan was denied a job by Hare Krishna Exports Pvt Ltd in Mumbai on the grounds that the firm hired only non-Muslims. Following this, an upset Zeshan posted the company’s rejection letter on Facebook, and the post went viral. The incident led to a huge uproar on social media with most condemning the episode stating that discrimination on the basis of religion was objectionable.     Following this, several other such advertisements seeking religion-specific employers also emerged. Here are some of those ads.           Religion is not the only basis on which discrimination occurs in work places, caste and sex discrimination does occur with subtlety and most cases go unreported. Many believe that private firms discriminate with a free hand because there no strict legal sanctions against discrimination. As this paper by Deepti Shenoy points out, one explanation for rampant workplace discrimination in India is the lack of a comprehensive employment discrimination framework, since there is no umbrella anti-discrimination law to regulate private workplaces. "The Constitution assures us against discrimination by the state, but as such we do not have a law which protects citizens against discrimination by the private sector," says Geeta Ramaseshan, a lawyer based in Chennai. The Constitution of India makes it clear that no form discrimination is allowed at workplaces of the government. Section (2) under Article 16 in the Indian Constitution states that “No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.” Beyond this, there are scattered laws against gender-discrimination and mandating equal-pay, and none which have private firms under their ambit. Shenoy points out that that beyond affirmative action, the government has been hesitant to take action against those perpetrating caste or religion based discrimination in workplaces. Instead of reducing discrimination at workplaces, Shenoy says that compensatory discrimination become the norm. What we need, lawyers and activist say, is specific legal recourse for the affected citizens. "A person who has been discriminated against should have the option to sue the private employer and demand financial damages," says Geetha. But beyond legislation, lawyers say, enforcement of the legislation also has to be given its due importance.

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