Decades after enacting a legislation to prevent atrocities against the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes through the SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, the picture continues to remain quite grim, according to a civil society report.
The report on the “Status of Implementation of SCs and STs [Prevention of Atrocities] Act 1989 and Rules 1995” reveals that there has been substantial increase in cases of violence against SCs and STs.
Released by Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, the first Dalit Chief Justice of India, here on Thursday, the report highlights loopholes in the implementation of the Act and argues that it has not been able to check atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis in an effective manner.
Prepared after collecting evidences by visiting the places of incidents and talking to victims across the country, the study says “to begin with first the cases of violence against SCs/STs are not registered” and even in those that are registered the conviction rate is quite low. “At least one-fourth of the cases have been disposed of at the investigation stage itself by the police and these complaints have been referred to as ‘mistake of fact,” adds the report which was prepared by the National Coalition for Strengthening SCs & STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
The report which explains in details the trends and nature of discrimination and atrocities against SCs/STs over the years, recommends that “a high-level committee should be appointed to review implementation of the Act and the Rules in all the States”.
While expressing disappointment over the States' failure to check crimes against Dalits and Adivasis, Justice Balakrishnan favoured the reports' recommendation that “exclusive special courts with powers to take cognizance of the offences under the Act should be set up and special public prosecutors for speedy trials of cases registered under the Act should be appointed”.
According to the report crime rate against SCs has increased from 2.6 per cent in 2007 to 2.8 per cent in 2010. In 2010, Uttar Pradesh accounted for 19.2 per cent of the total crimes against SCs (6,272 out of 32,712) in the country. In the same year, Rajasthan reported the highest rate of crimes (7.4 per cent) against SCs compared to the national average of 2.9 per cent.
According to the report, the number of crimes against STs drastically increased in 2010 to 5,885 cases and murder cases of STs alone totalled 142.
When it comes to registration of atrocity cases, the report says “police resort to various machinations to discourage SCs/STs from registering cases, to dilute the seriousness of the violence, and to shield the accused persons from arrest and prosecution. FIRs are often registered under the PCR Act and IPC provisions, which attract lesser punishment than PoA Act provisions for the same offence.”
At national level, only 11,682 (34.2 per cent) out of 34,127 atrocity cases were registered under PoA Act in 2010.
Of all the cases registered in 2010 investigation was completed only for 37,558 cases of the total of 51,782 cases. Charge sheets were submitted only for 26,480 cases (51 per cent) because of which even by the year end, around 14,092 cases remained pending for investigation.
In 2010, of the 16,601 cases registered across the country under PoA Act for atrocities against SCs, the police closed almost 2,150 cases (13 per cent) in 2010. Meanwhile, of the 1,714 registered cases of atrocities against STs, 223 (13 per cent) were closed.
The report says that with 101,251 cases of crimes against SCs/STs (80 per cent) pending for trial by the end of 2010, no significant improvement was seen in the trial pendency rate (82.5 per cent) at the end of 2011.