Human Rights


The judgement by Supreme Court judges Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit (dated 20 March, 2018, please click here to access) pertaining to Criminal Appeal No. 416 of 2018 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.5661 of 2017), among other things, says that:

• In view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act (1989), arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (S.S.P.) which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded.  Such reasons must be scrutinized by the Magistrate for permitting further detention.

• To avoid false implication of an innocent, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the D.S.P. concerned to find out whether the allegations make out a case under The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act (1989) and that the allegations are not frivolous or motivated.

• To avoid false implication, before a First Information Report (FIR) is registered, preliminary enquiry may be made (as mentioned above) whether the case falls in the parameters of The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act (1989) and is not frivolous or motivated.

• There is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act (1989) if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide.

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The press release by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment dated 25 January, 2016 (please click here to access) says that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 to ensure more stringent provisions for prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes will be enforced with effect from January 26, 2016.

Consequent upon passing of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2015 by the Lok Sabha on August 04,2015 and Rajya Sabha on December 21, 2015, to make amendments in the Principal Act, namely, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) {PoA} Act, 1989, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015, as assented by the President on December 31, 2015, was notified in the Gazette of India Extraordinary on January 01, 2016. After framing the rules for enactment, now it will be enforced by the Central Government with effect from January 26, 2016.

The key features of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 (please click here to access), are:

• New offences of atrocities like tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts which are derogatory to the dignity of members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 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 a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe women as devadasi, abusing in caste name, perpetrating witchcraft atrocities, imposing social or economic boycott, preventing Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes candidates from filing of nomination to contest elections, hurting a Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes woman by removing her garments, forcing a member of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe to leave house , village or residence, defiling objects sacred to members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe, touching or using words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe.

• Addition of certain IPC offences like hurt, grievous hurt, intimidation, kidnapping etc., attracting less than ten years of imprisonment, committed against members of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, as offences punishable under the PoA Act. Presently, only those offences listed in IPC as attracting punishment of 10 years or more and committed on members of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe are accepted as offences falling under the PoA Act.

• Establishment of Exclusive Special Courts and specification of Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors also, to exclusively try the offences under the PoA Act to enable speedy and expeditious disposal of cases.

• Power of Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts, 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.

• Addition of chapter on the ‘Rights of Victims and Witnesses’.

• Defining clearly the term ‘wilful negligence’ of public servants at all levels, starting from the registration of complaint, and covering aspects of dereliction of duty under this Act.

• Addition of presumption to the offences –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.

According to vikaspedia.in, the key features of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 (please click here to access), are:

Actions to be treated as offences - The Act outlines actions (by non SCs and STs) against SCs or STs to be treated as offences. The Amendment Act amends certain existing categories and adds new categories of actions to be treated as offences. New offences added under the Act include: (a) garlanding with footwear, (b) compelling to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or do manual scavenging, (c) abusing SCs or STs by caste name in public, (d) attempting to promote feelings of ill-will against SCs or STs or disrespecting any deceased person held in high esteem, and (e) imposing or threatening a social or economic boycott.

Assaulting or sexual exploiting an SC or ST woman is an offence under the Act - The Amendment Act adds that: (a) intentionally touching an SC or ST woman in a sexual manner without her consent, or (b) using words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature, or (c) dedicating an SC or ST women as a devadasi to a temple, or any similar practice will also be considered an offence. Consent is defined as a voluntary agreement through verbal or non-verbal communication.

Preventing SCs or STs from undertaking the following activities will be considered an offence - (a) using common property resources, (c) entering any place of worship that is open to the public, and (d) entering an education or health institution.

Addition of presumption to the offences – The court shall presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim if the accused had personal knowledge of the victim or his family, unless the contrary is proved.

Role of public servants - The Act specifies that a non SC or ST public servant who neglects his/her duties relating to SCs or STs shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of six months to one year. The Amendment Act specifies these duties, including: (a) registering a complaint or FIR, (b) reading out information given orally, before taking the signature of the informant and giving a copy of this information to the informant, etc.

• Addition of certain IPC offences like hurt, grievous hurt, intimidation, kidnapping etc., attracting less than ten years of imprisonment, committed against members of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, as offences punishable under the PoA Act. Presently, only those offences listed in IPC as attracting punishment of 10 years or more and committed on members of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe are accepted as offences falling under the PoA Act.

• Establishment of Exclusive Special Courts and specification of Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors also, to exclusively try the offences under the PoA Act to enable speedy and expeditious disposal of cases.

Rights of victims and witnesses -  The Amendment Act adds a chapter on the rights of victims and witness. It shall be the duty of the state to make arrangements for the protection of victims, their dependants and witnesses. The state government shall specify a scheme to ensure the implementation of rights of victims and witnesses.

• The courts established under the Act may take measures such as: (a) concealing the names of witnesses, (b) taking immediate action in respect of any complaint relating to harassment of a victim, informant or witness, etc. Any such complaint shall be tried separately from the main case and be concluded within two months.

Please click here to access the Rules related to The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Amendment Act (2015). 

 

Please click here to access the The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Amendment Act (2015).  

 

Please click here to access the Rules related to The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act (1989). 

 

Please click here to access The Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act (1989).



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