All you need to know about the SC and the ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

In this article, Shalini Chauhan from Central University of South Bihar discusses the provisions SC and the ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

“Just as modern mass production requires the standardization of commodities so the social process requires standardization of man, and this standardization is called equality”[1].

Abstract of the research undertaken

Hindu society is divided into many castes and more than 400 castes are termed as scheduled castes and scheduled tribe and are regarded as untouchables. The caste system was a result of work and not of birth. The preamble of the constitution of India talks about equality but despite that there is no equality among the citizens of India, but the so-called citizens of India treat the lower caste people more ruthlessly than the animals. A speech given by Dr. Ambedkar in the Indian constituent assembly gives a clear picture of the Indian society. There are various fundamental rights granted by the constitution of India to abolish this caste based discrimination, but the tyranny is that even the Constitution of India failed to grant equality to the lower caste. After the failure of the Constitution came the Untouchability (Offences) Act 1955 but the lacunae and loopholes impelled the government to project a major overhaul of this legal instrument. From 1976 onwards the Act was refurbished as the Protection of Civil Rights Act. Despite various measures adopted to improve the socio economic conditions of the SCs and STs they are still the vulnerable class and are subjected to various humiliation, offences, indignities and harassment. The normal provisions of the existing laws of Indian Penal Code and Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 were found to be inadequate to check these atrocities.

Recognizing these loopholes the Parliament, passed `Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and Rules 1995.

INTRODUCTION

The Preamble of the Constitution of India itself talks about the equal status of the citizens of India. The constitution speaks about sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, it also grants equality, but the tyranny of this society even now there is no equality. Dr. Ambedkar dreamt of a social and economic equality. The Constitution of India was made keeping all this consequences in mind. The part III of the Constitution which talks about the fundamental rights tried to abolish this caste system but failed. Article 14 which talks about right to equality before law, according to this article every person is equal in the eyes of law, it emphasized on prohibition of discrimination on grounds of color, race, religion, caste, gender, place of birth, etc. Article 17 abolishes the practice of untouchability in 1950. According to the provision of this article “enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability” is a punishable offence in accordance with law. As per Article 46 states “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker section of the people and in particular of the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation”.

ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE ACT

When all the provisions of the Constitution failed to implement the equality among the Indian society and also failed to remove the practice of untouchability, at that time a new law was needed and then came the Untouchability (Offences) Act 1955 but the lacunae and loopholes of this act impelled the government to project a major overhaul of this legal instrument. From 1976 onwards the Act was refurbished as the Protection of Civil Rights Act. Despite the various measures adopted by government to remove this gap between lower and upper caste and to protect the dalits from humiliation, disrespect, offences, indignities and harassment they still remained a vulnerable category. After being educated with their rights when they try to assert them and also when they speak against the practice of untouchability against them the vested interest cow them down and terrorize them

The normal provisions of the existing laws like the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and Indian Penal Code have been found inadequate to check these atrocities continuing the gross indignities and offences against Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes. Recognizing these existing problems the Parliament passed “Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and Rules, 1995.

MEANING OF ATROCITY

The word atrocity was unknown before the enactment of atrocities act in 1989. In legal parlance, the act understands the term to mean any offence that is punishable under section 3(1) and section 3(2).

Even though of this section, the meaning of atrocity in specific terms are,

  1. Atrocity is an “expression commonly used to refer to crimes against the SCs and STs in India”.
  2. It “denotes the quality of being shockingly cruel and inhumane, whereas the term crime relates to an act punishable by law”[2].
  3. It implies “any offence under the Indian Penal Code committed against SCs and STs by non SC and ST persons. Caste consideration as a motive is not necessary to make such an offence of atrocity”[3].

OBJECTIVE OF THE ACT

The objective and purpose of this more punitive piece of legislation was sharply outlined when the Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha:

“Despite various measures to improve the socio economic conditions of the SCs and STs, they remain vulnerable… They have, in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their life and property… Because of the awareness created, through spread of education, e.t.c, when they assert their rights and resist the practice of untouchability against them or demand statutory minimum wages or refuse to do any bonded and forced labor, the vested interests try to cow them down and terrorize them. When the SCs and STs try to preserve their self-respect or honor of their women, they become irritants for the dominant and the mighty…

Under the circumstances, the existing laws like the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and the normal provisions of the Indian Penal Code have been found to be inadequate to check and deter crimes against them committed by non-SCs and non-STs… It is considered necessary that not only the term ‘atrocity’ should be defined, but also stringent measures should be introduced to provide for higher punishment for committing such atrocities. It is also proposed to enjoin on the States and Union Territories to take specific preventive and punitive measures to protect SCs and STs from being victimized and, where atrocities are committed, to provide adequate relief and assistance to rehabilitate them.[4]

Therefore the objective of the act is very clear which emphasize the intention of the Indian state to provide justice to the Dalit class and also abolish this ill practice of untouchability.

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE ACT

The rations of Atrocities Act and Rules is generally a division into three different categories, which covers a list of problems or issues related to atrocities against SC/ST people and their position in society.

  • The first category contains provisions related to criminal law. This category in generally establishes criminal liability for a number of specifically defined crimes, and also extends the scope of certain categories of penalizations given in the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • The second category contains provisions for relief and compensation for victims of atrocities.
  • The third category contains provisions that set up special authorities for the exertion and monitoring of the Act.

The salient features of the Act are,

  1. Creation of new types of offences not in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or in the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 (PCRA).
  2. Commission of offences only by specified persons i.e. barbarity can be committed only by non-SCs and non-STs on members of the SC or ST communities. Crimes among SCs and STs or between STs and SCs do not come under the purview of this Act. Kanubhai M. Parmar v. State of Gujarat, that if the offence is committed by persons belonging to Scheduled Caste against Scheduled Caste member, they cannot be prosecuted and punished under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
  3. Defines various types of atrocities against SCs/STs. Section 3(1) i to xv and 3(2) i to vii.
  4. Prescribes strict punishment for such atrocities (Section 3(1)i to xv and 3(2)i to vii).
  5. Enhanced the quality of punishment for some offences (Section 3(2) i to vii, 5).
  6. Enhanced minimum punishment for public servants (Section 3(2) vii).
  7. Penalty for delinquency of duties by a public servant (Section 4).
  8. Attachment and forfeiture of property (Section 7).
  9. Externment of potential offenders (Section 10(1), 10(3), 10(3)).
  10. Creation of Special Courts(Section 14). In Mangal Prasad v. Additional Session Judge the court held that the Court below has been appointed as a special Judge within the meaning of Section 2(d) of the Act but unless the accused is sent to him by the Magistrate, he cannot take any cognizance of the offence under Section 14 of the said Act and he also cannot act as a Magistrate in exercising his power or in taking the cognizance of the Act like a Magistrate or to send that complaint petition to the concerned police station under Section 156 (3), Criminal Procedure
  11. Appointment of Special Public Prosecutors (Section 15).
  12. Empowers the government to impose collective fines (Section 16).
  13. Erasure of arms licenses in the areas labeled where an atrocity may take place or has taken place (Rule 3iii) and clasp all illegal fire arms (Rule 3iv).
  14. Grant arms licenses to SCs and STs (Rule 3v).
  15. Denial of anticipatory bail (Section 18).
  16. Denial of probation to convict (Section 19).
  17. Provides reimbursement, relief, and rehabilitation for victims of atrocities or their legal heirs (Section 17(3), 21(2)iii, Rule 11, 12(4)).
  18. Identification of atrocity prone areas(Section 17(1), 21(2)vii, Rule 3(1)).
  19. Setting up hindrance to avoid committing of atrocities on the SCs amongst others (Rule 3i to 3xi).
  20. Setting up a mandatory, periodic monitoring system at different levels (Section 21(2)v):
  • District level (Rule 3xi, 4(2), 4(4), 17).
  • State level (8xi, 14, 16, 18).
  • National level (Section 21(2), 21(3), 21(4)).

Along with the rules, it provides a framework for monitoring the state response to the atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. According to the Act and Rules, there are to be monthly reports (from the District Magistrates), quarterly review meetings at the district level by the District Monitoring and Vigilance Committee (DVMC) and half yearly reviews by a 25-member State Monitoring and Vigilance Committee (SVMC) the chaired by the Chief Minister. The pursuance of every Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) will also have to be reviewed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) every quarter. Annual reports have to be sent to the central government by 31 March every year.

THE SC AND THE SC (PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES ACT, 1989) ACT IN BRIEF

SHORT TITLE, EXTENT, AND COMMENCEMENT

Section 1 Prevention of Atrocities Act,1989 deals with the title, extent, and commencement of the Act. The area where it will have its operation is the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir which occupies a special constitutional position. Therefore this act is applicable will be followed by whole of India but not in the State of Jammu and Kashmir as because they have different laws prevailing there.

DEFINITIONS

Section 3 of this act deals with definitions of atrocity, code, schedule caste and schedule tribe, special court, special public prosecutor, and also says that any amendments made in this act will be enforceable in the area where it is entitled to execution.

PUNISHMENT CLAUSE

Section 4 of the Act deals with punishments for offences of atrocities. If an offence is committed by an upper caste member upon a lower caste member, such person shall be liable for punishment under section 4 of the act. This section contains substantive penal clauses. Section 3 (1) (i) to (xv) and section 3 (2) (i) to (viii) describes various offences of heinousness and also provide different punishment and remedies.

USE OF FORCE AGAINST DALITS

Sections 3 (1) (i) to 3 (1) (iii) specifies the offences of atrocities by use of force. If a member of upper class use force against the member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe like forcing him to drinking him or eat any inedible or filthy substance or does any acts with intent to cause injury, insult or annoyance to any member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe by dumping excreta, waste matter, corpse or any other offensive substance in his premises or neighborhood or forcibly removes clothes from the person of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or parades him naked or with painted face or body or commits any similar act which is derogatory to human dignity, shall be liable for minimum mandatory punishment of six months which may be extend to five years and with fine.

It must be made specifically clear that in order to constitute an offence of atrocity under Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribe Act 1989 the offence must be committed by:

  1. A person who is not a under the purview of schedule caste and schedule tribe
  2. In respect of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribes; and
  3. The offence must be committed in public view.

WRONGFUL POSSESSION

The Act provides that if any non-Scheduled Caste and non-Scheduled tribes wrongfully occupies or cultivates any land owned by, or allotted to, or notified by any competent authority to be allotted to a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or gets the land allotted to him transferred, shall be liable for minimum mandatory punishment of six months which may extend to five years and shall liable for fine.

In Kashiben Chhaganbhai Koli v. State of Gujarat, 42 a member of Scheduled Caste was dispossessing from his land by upper caste member. The arraigned agreed to sell his land to complainant and handed over possession to him. The accused thereafter forcibly entered upon land and damaged crops. Eye-witness supported the claim cases of the complainant and the accused was convicted under section 3(1) (v) as well as for cheating and damaging crops.

BEGGAR OR BONDED LABOUR

If the aristocrats compels or persuades a member of a plebians or Dalits to do ‘begar’ or other similar forms of forced or bonded labour other than any compulsory service for public purposes imposed by Government shall be liable for minimum mandatory punishment of six years which may extend to five years and shall liable for fine. “Begar” means involuntary work without payment. The word begar constitutes of the elements:-

(a) it is to compel a person to work against his will.

(b) he is not paid any remuneration for work.

“Other similar forms of forced and bonded labour”, it means to compel a person to work against his will.

Besides this Act, the constitution of India[5] also provides a similar provision. The Constitution of India provides that traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable on accordance with law. Article 23 of the constitution is distinct from the section 3(1)(iv) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 because section 3(1)(iv) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act1989 applicable to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes only but Article 23 of the Indian constitution provides fundamental right to all the citizens of India.

FORCE TO VOTE

If non-scheduled castes and non-scheduled tribes forces or intimidates a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe not to vote or to vote to a particular candidate or to vote in a manner other than that provided by law, shall be liable for minimum mandatory punishment of six years which may extend to five years and shall liable for fine.

CAUSING HUMILIATION IN PUBLIC PLACE

If creams of the society or the upper class intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view, shall be liable for minimum mandatory punishment of six years which may extend to five years and shall be liable for fine.

In order to constitute the accusation of an offence of atrocity under Section 3 of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, there must be an allegation that the accused has insulted intentionally or intimidated the complainant and such insult or intimidation was done with the intention to humiliate the complainant.

The most common way to commit cruelty against Scheduled Caste is to call them by their caste with the sole intention of injuring their sentiment and feeling. It is rightly observed by Hon’ble Court in Kaliya Peru Mal v. State of Madras  that the specific averments made in the complaint showed that the accused abused the complainant by her caste name, in filthy language, thereby causing insult and intimidation to her. The court held that all this amounted to an offence under Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

In State of Kerala v. U.P. Hassan50, the accused called the complainant by term “Pulaya Nadi”. The word ‘Pulayadimon’ in Malayalam indicates meaning ‘adulterer’ or ‘son of a prostitute’. The court held that this term did not have any caste implication and since accused had no motive to insult the complaint by his caste name, no offence under Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was committed by the accused.

The facts of Shayam Singh alias Dhannu and Another v. State of M.P.51 is almost similar to the facts narrated as above. The accused allegedly called the complainant by caste name (Chamar in this case). The court held that there was no offence because taking the name of caste of any citizen of this country itself is not the offence till it is not taken with the intention to humiliate that person because of his community.

ASSAULT WITH INTENT OF OUTRAGING MODESTY OF WOMEN

At any time the upper class, assaults or uses force to any woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe with intent to dishonor or abuse her modesty, shall be liable for minimum mandatory punishment of six months which may extend to five years and shall liable for fine.

An Offence under Section 3(1)(xi) of Act is an aggravated form of offence under Section 354, IPC. Section 3(1)(xi) of the Act which deals with attack or use of force on any woman belonging to dalit class with intent to or dishonour or outrage her modesty is an annoyed form of the offence under Section 354, IPC. The only difference between Section 3(1)(xi) and Section 354 is essentially the caste or the tribe to which the victim belongs. If she belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, Section 3(1) (xi) is made applicable. The other difference is that in Section 3(1)(xi) dishonor of such victim is also made an offence.

In Karan Singh v. State of Haryana, complainant and her companion were molested as they were women. The court held that as such women were not molested because of the fact that they belonged to Scheduled Caste, hence, accused could not be prosecuted for atrocities on Scheduled Caste woman under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.

Ashok Bapurao Thorat v. State of Maharashtra & Anr., In urgent case, allegation against the accused that he had sexual intercourse with complainant belonging to the scheduled caste. The contents of FIR showing that the complainant was consenting party and there was love affair between them. The court held that complainant was not subjected to consummation because she was scheduled caste woman. The accused is not liable for punishment under section 3(1)(xi).

In Mahendra kumar v State of Madhya Pradesh ,the prosecutxic Parmila Bai lodged a written report on 30-3-1992, in the police Station that on 28-3-1992, in night at about 9o’clock, the appellant Mahendra Kumar made an assault and tried to outrage her modesty near the house of Kotiwarin, while she was returning to her house with her aunt Agasiya Bai after watching moving on television. On the basis of the report of the protsecutrix, an FIR was registered for an offence punishable under section 3(i)(xi) of the act and section 354 of the IPC against the appellant by police station, Arjunda. The allegations against the appellant are that he caught the hand of the prosecutrix and told her also ‘ Chalo Waha Le Jayenge’, on which the prosecutrix called her aunt. Her aunt also hurled abuses on the appellant and he ran away. Thereafter, the prosecutrix came to her house and narrated the incident to her mother.

ANALYSIS OF THE ACT

OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

Section 3(1) identifies 15 different acts like forcible feeding of invidious substances, threatening to vote, contaminating of water ordinarily used etc. as punishable offence with a minimum sentence of 6 months imprisonment which may extend to five years and fine.

Section 3 (2) identifies serious offences like fabricating false evidence and causing execution of an innocent SC/ST etc., where the punishments are seven years or life imprisonment or death. The offences can be committed only by persons who neither are SCs nor STs. It was unsuccessfully contested that, Section 3 is violating the equality clause of the constitution as it makes a hostile discrimination against the caste Hindus. Section 3 was upheld interpreting it in the light of the Preamble[6], causing the disappearance of evidence or screening of offender of these offences shall be punishable with the punishment provided for that offence.

Any public servant who is not an SC or ST, willfully neglecting duties under this Act shall be punishable with a minimum sentence of six months extending to one year. If the public servant is an SC or an ST and he plots with the slayers by willful neglect, he/she cannot be punished. Removal of persons likely to commit offences for a maximum period of two years under this Act may be done by experiment orders of special court. Section7 provides for forfeiture of property used by the captive in favor of the state. The property can be attached during the trial and later on conviction surrendered.

Provisions of anticipatory bail under S.438 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973 shall not relate to any case involving the arrest of any person under this Act as laid down in Section18. The constitutional validity of this section was challenged vis a vis Article 21. It was held that S.18 was a procedure established by law and therefore not violative of Article 21. Mumbai High Court has granted anticipatory bail on the ground that there was no prima facie case under the Act made out in the complaint. Section 360 of the Code and Probation of Offenders Act 1958 shall not apply to cases where the guilty person under this Act is above eighteen years old.47PAA shall override other laws & customs & usages.Customs etc. justifying or enabling practices declared offences cannot be pleaded as defenses.

IMPLEMENTATION

Prevention of Atrocities Act ensures proper implementation by requiring the State Government to notify a court of Session to be a special court and to appoint a special public prosecutor for every special court. State Govt. has powers to impose & realize collective fines from residents of any locality for committing offences under this Act.  Preventive action and effective implementation of PAA are duties on the State Govt.  Section 23 of PAA empowers the Central Govt. to make rules for carrying out the purposes of the Act. Central rules under this Act were notified in 1995-Scheduled Castes & the Scheduled Tribes( Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995

Preventive and precautionary measures are to be taken by the State government is listed out in Rule 3. Under this rule the government is under a duty to identify the area where it has reason to believe that atrocity may take place or there is an apprehension of reoccurrence of an offence under the Act; set up awareness centers and organize workshops; encourage NGOs; deploy special police force in the identified area etc.  Rule 4 requires the government to effectively supervise the prosecution by preparing a district wise panel of eminent senior advocates (at least seven years practice) for conducting the cases under this Act in the special courts and pay them fees on a scale higher than the other panel advocates of the state. Rule 5 is about information to police on commission of offence under this Act. Rule 6 requires the district Magistrate etc. to conduct spot inspection on any information of atrocity within his jurisdiction. Investigating officers shall be appointed after taking into account his past experience, sense of ability etc. provides Rule 7. Rule 8 requests the state to set up a SCs & STs Protection Cell to be responsible for reviewing the identified area & maintaining tranquility there, enquiring as to refusal to lodge complaint, negligence by public servant, etc. Under Rule 9, State shall nominate a Nodal Officer who shall coordinate the functioning of the officers appointed to implement this Act. Rule16 requires constitution of state-level vigilance & monitoring committee with chief minister as head & Rule17   requires such a committee at the district level.

REHABILITATION

Section 21(2) seeks to ensure social & economic rehabilitation of the victims of the atrocities. It lays down measures to provide legal aid to victims & traveling & maintenance expenses to witnesses & victims during investigation & trial Rule11 lays down that every victim of atrocity  or of him/her dependents & witnesses shall be paid to & fro rail fare by second class in express/mail passenger train or actual bus or train fare from his/her place of residence to place of investigation The minor, women, old, disabled victims/witnesses shall be entitled to be accompanied by an attendant of his/her choice. There is provision to pay daily maintenance allowances not less than minimum wages and diet expenses. These allowances are to be paid immediately or within three days. In case of offences under Section 3, the victim shall be reimbursed the medical expenses including blood transfusion, meals etc.

R.12 calls upon the District Magistrate to make arrangements for providing immediate relief in cash or in kind or both to the victims of atrocity, their family members & dependents, including food, water, clothing, shelter, medical and transport facilities & other essential items necessary for human beings. The norms & scale of relief is provided in the schedule to the Rules. The relief provided in respect of death, or injury to, or damage to property shall be in addition to any other right to claim compensation in respect thereof under any other law for the time being in force. Rule 13 feels necessity for the state government to take care in appointing persons with proper inclination and understanding of the problems of SCs and STs and further ensure that SCs and STs are adequately represented in the administration and police force.  Rule 14 lays down a specific duty of the state to make necessary provisions in its annual budget for providing relief and rehabilitation facilities to the victims of atrocities.

AMENDMENT IN SC AND THE ST (PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES) ACT, 1989

The Prevention of Atrocities (POA) Act, 1989 was altered to include new offences and to guarantee speedy justice to sufferer. The amendments to the act were originally issued as an authorization by the previous UPA government in March 2014. The NDA government has now got the changes passed in both the houses of parliament. After the amendments, certain changes became necessary to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995. The previous rules are now modified and were notified on 14th April, 2016.

MAJOR AMENDMENTS IN THE ACT

Atrocity against the SCs and STs have been on the rise. A total of 39408 crimes against SCs were reported in the year 2013 while the number of crimes against SCs has gone up to 47064 in 2014. There has been an appeal to amend the existing act and to include more offences and to ensure relief & speedy justice to the victims.

The following major changes have been made now via the amendment.

  • Rationalization of the phasing of relief amount payment to victims for various offences of atrocities. The rules also specify relief amount for various offences of atrocities.
  • Not linking remittance of any part of relief amount with the requirement of medical examination for non-invasive kind of offences against women like sexual harassment, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty, to disrobe, voyeurism, stalking etc.
  • Provision of relief for offences of rape and gang rape.
  • Rise in the existing sum of relief amount depending upon the nature of the offence, while linking it with the Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers

NEW OFFENCES OF ATROCITY

 The following new offences have been added to the list of atrocities

  • Tonsuring of head, mustache, or similar acts which are derogatory to the dignity of members of SCs & STs
  • Garlanding with Chappals
  • Denying access to irrigation facilities or forest rights
  • Dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or to dig graves, using or permitting manual scavenging
  • Dedicating an SC/ST woman as Devadasi
  • Abusing in caste name, perpetrating witchcraft atrocities
  • Imposing social or economic boycott
  • Preventing SC/ST candidates from filing of nomination to contest elections
  • Hurting an SC/ST woman by removing her garments
  • Forcing a member of SC/ST to leave house , village or residence
  • Defiling objects sacred to members SCs/STs
  • Touching or using words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature against members of SCs/STs

EXCLUSIVE SPECIAL COURT FOR SPEEDY JUSTICE

The amendments to the act also authorize establishment of exclusive Special Courts and appointment of Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors to try the offences under this act. This is made to enable speedy justice and immediate disposal of cases.

The Special Courts have been mandated to take direct cognizance of offence and as far as possible, completion of trial of the case within two months, from the date of filing of the charge sheet.

The State Governments have been asked to prepare a panel of senior advocates who have been in practice for not less than seven years for each District, for conducting the cases filed under this act. The State Governments have also been asked to review the performance of these advocates at least twice in a calendar year. They are also asked to review various reports received, investigation made and preventive steps taken by the District Magistrate, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, relief and rehabilitation facilities provided to the victims etc.

ENHANCEMENT IN RELIEF AMOUNT

The standard for relief amount has also been justified including enhancement of the relief amount for certain offences.  Relief amount in case of certain offences are

  • Rs 85,000 to the victim in case of offences like avoiding from voting, filing nomination, Forcing, obstructing a holder of office of Panchayat or Municipality from performing duties etc.
  • Rs 5,00,000 to the victim in case of rape and Rs 8,25,000 in case of gang rape
  • Rs 8,25,000 in case of murder
  • Rs 1,00,000 in case of deception or threatening a social or economic boycott
  • Rs 1,00,000 in case of preventing a SC/ST entering any place of worship which is open to the public etc

A new chapter on the ‘Rights of Victims and Witnesses’ has also been added to the act. The term ‘willful negligence’ of public servants at all levels, starting from the registration of complaint, and covering aspects of dereliction of duty under this Act has been clearly defined.

Presumption to the offences has been added to the act, i.e., If the accused was acquainted with the victim or his family, the court will presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim unless proved otherwise.

GAP BETWEEN VARIOUS LEGISLATION AND PRACTISE

In the end the question is that why do higher caste persons continue to practice untouchability, and discrimination? What are the major reasons for the non- implementation of Constitutional legislations enacted to protect the interests of Dalits? Why do Non dalits resort to physical and other violence whenever the dalits try to gain a lawful access to Human Rights and equal participation in social, political, religious, cultural and economic sphere of community life? The reasons for the widespread practice of untouchability, atrocities, other violent reaction by the higher caste as well as non-implementation of the various provisions of the constitution as well as legislations are to be found in continuing belief and faith of the high caste Hindus in the sanctity of institution of caste system and untouchability. On the one hand Dalits are being still excluded from the day to day communitarian interactional relationship based on the caste hierarchy and on the other hand some sectarian interests are forcing them, directly or indirectly to remain within the fold of the Hindu Society to present this society as a “homogenised Hindu Whole” and thereby ensuring their majority status.

Secondly, as argued by Ambedkar, most of the Dalits—being illiterate, ignorant and god-fearing—themselves believe in caste system and practice caste discrimination among themselves, probably not to the extent the upper caste do. They, therefore, remain divided and are unable to take a collective action against caste oppression.

Third, although the SCs/Dalits alone account for over 16% of total Indian population, they constitute too small a number in each village to muster enough courage for taking the support of law and going to the police and the judiciary to punish the caste Hindus violating their rights

Fourth, most of the Dalits are landless and depend on the very castes that violate their rights and dignity to earn their living. So, though there are laws to their support, they would not dare using them to protect their source of living.

Fifth, seeking justice through the special laws is not an easy task, since it demands adherence to number of procedures on the part of the victims, accused, police, the special public prosecutor and others concerned at every stage of the case, which is often turn out to be very costly, tiresome and time-consuming, particularly for the victims. Invariably, it is during this time the accused indulges in number of mischievous activities including bribing the police, tampering the evidences, pursuing the victims for an out of court settlement of the case and threatening the victims and their witnesses etc. And if they have to pursue the case despite all these, it would be at cost of their means of sustenance, dignity, peaceful living, and sometimes their life itself

Sixth, overwhelming caste loyalties and sentiments often influence the decisions of the police and judiciary. The explanation of Ambedkar regarding why most cases of caste discrimination and violence end in acquittal is true even in the present context. When the law enforcement agency, the police and the judiciary, does not seem to be free from caste prejudice—since they are very much part of the same caste-ridden society— expecting law to ensure justice to victims of caste crimes is rather an impractical solution to this perennial social problem.

CASES UNDER THIS THIS ACT IN RECENT YEARS

May 14, 2016: A caste Hindu hacked to death a Dalit woman after her brother married and eloped with his daughter, in Tirunelveli.
May 2, 2016: A 30-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped and brutally murdered in Thiruvananthapuram.
March 13, 2016: A 22-yr-old Dalit boy was killed in Tirupur (TN) allegedly for marrying a woman from the politically and socially dominant Thevar community, Kausalya.
November 2015: Around 100 children left a school in Kolar in Karnataka, refusing to eat the food dished out by a Dalit cook.
October 21, 2015: Dalit house in Haryana Ballabhgarh set afire, 2 kids burnt to death.
October 5, 2015: A 90-year-old Dalit man died after he was brutally attacked with an axe and set on fire for trying to enter a temple at Hamirpur in UP.

October 4, 2015: A Dalit student was thrashed by his teacher in Jodhpur for touching the mid-day meal plates.
March 2015: 17-year-old Dalit girl in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district was raped and murdered by her PT teacher in college.

CONCLUSION

The prevention of atrocities act 1989 emerged as a boon for the so called untouchables. It gave them respect and a status in the society The present time is an historic moment, not only for Dalits, but for all those committed to protect basic human rights and principles of justice, equality, liberty, fraternity.  India, a rising star and increasingly important player on the world stage, must not be allowed to ignore the injustice and oppression within its own borders any longer.  Together, we must unite, nationally and internationally, to force the Indian government to rise above an entrenched caste-mentality and to properly enforce its laws, implement its policies, and fulfill its responsibility to protect the basic human rights of all of its citizens. Among the Dalit community and its supporters & sympathizers, Dr.Ambedkar’s statement resounds louder today than ever.

References.

[1]. Erich Seligmann Fromm, German pshycologist.

[2]. Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of SCs and STs, 4th report 2004  to 2005, New Delhi, 2005,para1.1

[3]. Clarification by Home Ministry of Home Affairs, noted in NHRC, Report on Prevention of Atrocities against SCs, New Delhi,2002, p.28

[4]. National Commission for SCs, First Report 2004-05, New Delhi, 2006, pp.222-3

[5]. Article 23(1), The Constitution of India.

[6]. Jai Singh v Union of India, AIR 1993 Raj 177

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2 COMMENTS

  1. […] The social and economic backwardness of the Dalits makes it very difficult for them to approach the legal system when they are discriminated against or are subjected to atrocities by the non-Dalits. One of the reasons for that oppression and violence is landlessness of Dalit community in the country. The majority of the Dalits are still landless. Such helplessness often makes the Dalits accept injustices and atrocities as their fate. The plight of Dalits can be understood from the following words: […]

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