SC ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act

“The taste of anything can be changed. But poison cannot be changed into nectar.” – BR Ambedkar

Caste has been a permanent speed-breaker in the progress of our country, and 29 years after a law to protect the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes from atrocities came into existence, the apex court issued a slew of guidelines that would protect public servants and private individuals from arbitrary and immediate arrest under the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, 1989 protects the marginalised communities against discrimination and atrocities. It was amended recently to include new offences and to ensure speedy justice to victims. The amendment in the law was to protect honest public servants discharging ‘bona fide’ duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.

Parliament passed a crucial bill that provides for stringent action against those involved in crimes against scheduled castes and tribes, like

  • Wrongfully occupying their land or dedicating such women as a ‘devadasi’.
  • The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill also provides for establishing special courts to try such offences and the rehabilitation of victims and aimed at prohibiting the commission of offences against members of the SC and ST communities.
  • Wrongfully occupying land belonging to SCs or STs is an offence under the bill
  • Assaulting or sexually exploiting an SC or ST woman is an offence under the bill which states that any intentional touching of an SC or ST woman in a sexual manner without her consent, using words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature, dedicating an SC or ST women as a devadasi to a temple, or any similar practice will be considered an offence.
  • The Bill specifies that a non-SC or ST public servant who neglects his duties relating to SCs or STs shall be punishable with imprisonment for six months to one year.
  • It also declares as an offence garlanding with footwear, compelling to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or do manual scavenging, abusing SCs or STs by caste name in public, attempting to promote feelings of ill-will against SCs or STs or disrespecting any deceased person held in high esteem and imposing or threatening a social or economic boycott.
  • The measure, which seeks to amend the Act, also has certain new categories of actions to be treated as offences like forcing an SC or ST individual to vote or not vote for a particular candidate in an illegal manner.

SC issued directions to Prevention the misuse of provisions of SC/ ST Act 1989 in case Kashinath Mahajan V. State of Maharastra:

  • There is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide.
  • The Bench has directed that a Government official cannot be prosecuted on mere allegation of committing an offence under the Act without the sanction of appointing authority.
  • Court direct that that in absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected, if an accused person is a public servant, without written permission of the appointing authorities and if such a person is not a public servant, without written permission of the Senior Superintendent of Police of the District. Such permissions must be granted for recorded reasons which must be served on the person to be arrested and to the concerned court.
  • As and when a person arrested is produced before the Magistrate, the Magistrate must apply his mind to the reasons recorded and further detention should be allowed only if the reasons recorded are found to be valid. To avoid false implication, before before FIR is registered, preliminary enquiry may be made whether the case falls in the parameters of the Atrocities Act and is not frivolous or motivated”
  • To avoid false implication of an innocent, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the DSP concerned to find out whether the allegations make out a case under the Atrocities Act and that the allegations are not frivolous or motivated. Any violation of this direction will be actionable by way of disciplinary as well as contempt.