The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes
- The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment.
- It seeks to amend the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
- The Act prohibits the commission of offences against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and establishes special courts for the trial of such offences and the rehabilitation of victims.
- In 2018, the Supreme Court stated that for persons accused of committing an offence under the Act, approval of the Senior Superintendent of Police will be required before an arrest is made.
- Further, the Deputy Superintendent of Police may conduct a preliminary enquiry to find out whether there is a prima facie case under the Act.
Amendments to the Act:
- The Bill states that the investigating officer will not require the approval of any authority for the arrest of an accused. Further, it provides that a preliminary enquiry will not be required for the registration of a First Information Report against a person accused under the Act.
- The Act states that persons accused of committing an offence under the Act cannot apply for anticipatory bail. The Bill seeks to clarify that this provision will apply despite any judgements or orders of a court that provide otherwise.
- The bill is meant to safeguard the rights of innocent people without affecting the rights of the marginal communities
- The judgement effectively encouraged police officials to not register cases which is contrary to the intention of act.
- Amendment does not dilute the act but simply upholds the constitutional safeguards available to those who are falsely accused of an offence.
- The SC ruling which practically took away the effectiveness of the act is restored by this amendment.
- Act was conceived as a strong safeguard against castes and tribes that have been historically exploited and abused.
- Law has been often misused to “blackmail” innocent public servants and private individuals to wreak personal vengeance or serve vested interests.
- False complaints to implicate innocent people have often been filed to promote caste hatred and “perpetuate casteism”.
- The bill would make the law “ineffective” and adversely impact the dispensation of justice to Dalits and Tribal’s.
- Moreover, there was an low conviction rate in cases registered under the act, the conviction rate for cases of atrocities against SC/STs is less than 30% against the average of 42% for all cognizable offences under the IPC. opposing the argument that the act is often misused.
- It is necessary to express concern that working of the Atrocities Act should not result in perpetuating casteism which can have an adverse impact on integration of the society and the constitutional values.
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