Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act - Controversy


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, or the SC/ST Act protects the marginalised communities against discrimination and atrocities. On March 20, the Supreme Court expressed concern over misuse of the Act and ruled against automatic arrest of the booking of accused under the law. It also introduced the provision of anticipatory bail. The Supreme Court ruled that public servants cannot be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority and citizens too should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law. This led to widespread protests across five states and cost 11 lives. The government filed the review petition in the matter. However, turning down the government's appeal to freeze the earlier verdict, the top court said on April 3, 2018, "Our aim is to protect innocents, we have not diluted the law in any manner."

About SC/ST Act:

The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is popularly known as POA, the SC/ST Act, the Prevention of Atrocities Act, or simply the Atrocities Act. The SC/ST Act was enacted on September 9, 1989. The rules for the Act were notified on March 31, 1995.

The SC/ST Act lists 22 offences relating to various patterns or behaviours inflicting criminal offences and breaking the self-respect and esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes community. This includes denial of economic, democratic and social rights, discrimination, exploitation and abuse of the legal process.

According to the SC/ST Act, the protection is provided from social disabilities such as denial of access to certain places and to use customary passage, personal atrocities like forceful drinking or eating of inedible food sexual exploitation, injury etc, atrocities affecting properties, malicious prosecution, political disabilities and economic exploitation.
For speedy trial, Section 14 of the SC/ST Act provides for a Court of Session to be a Special Court to try offences under this Act in each district.

The prime objective of the SC/ST Act is to deliver justice to marginalised through proactive efforts, giving them a life of dignity, self-esteem and a life without fear, violence or suppression from the dominant castes.
The government is planning to bring an ordinance to overturn the Supreme Court verdict putting safeguards on arrests under the of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and subsequently introduce a bill to insulate it from further judicial scrutiny.
The government is likely to introduce the bill to incorporate the legislation in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, laws under which cannot be challenged in courts.




Friday, 22nd Jun 2018, 07:19:15 PM

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