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The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

OBJECTIVE

To deliver justice to the SC/ST communities through proactive efforts to enable them to live in society with dignity and self-esteem and without fear or violence or suppression from the dominant castes.

SALIENT FEATURES 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 (atrocities 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).
  3. Defines various types of atrocities against SCs/STs.
  4. Prescribes stringent punishment for such atrocities.
  5. Enhanced punishment for some offences
  6. Enhanced minimum punishment for public servants
  7. Punishment for neglect of duties by a public servant
  8. Attachment and forfeiture of property.
  9. Externment of potential offenders.
  10. Creation of Special Courts.
  11. Appointment of Special Public Prosecutors.
  12. Empowers the government to impose collective fines.
  13. Cancellation of arms licences in the areas identified where an atrocity may take place or has taken place.
  14. Grant arms licences to SCs and STs.
  15. Denial of anticipatory bail .
  16. Denial of probation to convict.
  17. Provides compensation, relief and rehabilitation for victims of atrocities or their legal heirs.
  18. Identification of atrocity prone areas.
  19. Setting up deterrents to avoid committing of atrocities on the SCs amongst others.
  20. Setting up a mandatory, periodic monitoring system at different levels,
  • District level
  • State level
  • National level

KEY POINTS

  • The SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 with stringent provisions extends to whole of India except the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • According to Rule 7(1), investigation of an offence committed under the SC/ST Act cannot be investigated by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

HOW SUCCESSFUL THE ACT WAS?

  • Records proves that it has only partially succeeded.
  • Atrocities still continues, eventhough a platform for redressels exist.
  • Misuse of the act is also reported.
  • Low conviction rate.
  • Problems in implementation end up with structural problems

As the rate of conviction was very low Supreme Court made a judgement, a person cannot be arrested without any sort of evidence as there have many instances of vengeance of using this act. Proceeding on this premise, the court ruled that the bar under Section 18 of the Act on grant of anticipatory bail was not absolute. It mandated a preliminary inquiry into complaints before an FIR can be registered and barred any immediate arrest of the accused, unless approved by a higher authority in the case of public servants or the Senior Superintendent of Police in respect of private citizens

RECENTLY IN NEWS

The parliament passed a bill to overturn a Supreme Court order concerning certain safeguards against the arrest under the SC/ST law.

Union ministry said Supreme Court has diluted the SC/ST Act through its ruling that a preliminary enquiry was required to arrest any person even under the SC/ST Act meant for preventing atrocities against those covered under the Act. 

In this context the Bill contains provisions such as,

  • The bill rules out any provisions for Anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs.
  • No preliminary enquiry will be required for registering a criminal case
  • Arrest under this law will not be subject to any approval

Statistics says…(as per Natioan Crimes Records Bureau)

  • In every 15 minutes a Dalit is ill-treated.
  • On an average 6 dalit women are harassed every day.
  • 66% of increase in atrocities against dalit between 2007-2017

 

CRIMES AGAINST SC/ST – ATROCITIES OF VARIOUS FORMS

1. Cow vigilantism

2. Social boycott

3. Caste clashes

4. Discrimination in universities/educational institutions etc.

HOW TO SOLVE?

  • Review the definition of "underprivileged": Criteria such as mere birth in a designated caste need to be de-prioritised to consider factors like historical aspects, socio-economic status and opportunities to participate in the nation's growth.
  • Catalyse a revolution in micro-entrepreneurship and self-employment: For this we need to focus on vocational training, appropriate financing, insurance and accessible technology.
  • Achieve transformation in the sociocultural practices followed by elected bodies.every Municipal Corporation or panchayat must be mandated to eradicate discrimination at its level.
  • Reorient the education system to address the issues of inequity at all levels.

The law has amended from time to time and again to prevent the atrocities against the SC/ST communities of the country but, despite of all these crime rate is increasing .it reminds us that a law alone cannot stop harassment. What is needed is a change in the mindset, proper awareness and an unbiased legal system.