What is SC/ST Act and Controversies in April 2018 (Important) (Download PDF)

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Scheduled Castes & Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, or SC/ST Act protects marginalised communities against discrimination & atrocities. Govt. filed review petition in matter. Turning down govt. ’s appeal to freeze earlier verdict, top court’s aim is to protect innocents, they have not diluted law in any manner.

Image of Stringent Act

Image of Stringent Act

Image of Stringent Act

Recent Developments Leading to Outrage

  • Supreme Court expressed concern over misuse of Act & ruled against automatic arrest of booking of accused under law on 20th March.

  • It introduced provision of anticipatory bail. Supreme Court ruled that public servants cannot be prosecuted w/o approval of appointing authority & citizens too should be arrested only after inquiry under law.

  • This led to widespread protests across 5 states & cost 11 lives.

About SC/ST Act (Important)

  • Scheduled Castes & Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is popularly known as POA, SC/ST Act, Prevention of Atrocities Act, or Atrocities Act.

  • SC/ST Act was enacted on 9th September, 1989. Rules for Act were notified on 31st March, 1995.

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

  • According to SC/ST Act, protection is provided from social disabilities such as denial of access to certain places & 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 & economic exploitation.

  • For speedy trial, Section 14 of SC/ST Act provides for Court of Session to be Special Court to try offences under this Act in each district.

  • Prime objective of SC/ST Act is to deliver justice to marginalised thru proactive efforts, giving them life of dignity, self-esteem & life w/o fear, violence or suppression from dominant castes.

  • National Democratic Alliance (NDA) govt, in 2015, made some amendments to Prevention of Atrocities Act including recognising actions like tonsuring of head, moustache as offences.

  • Offences included denying access to irrigation facilities, garlanding with chappals (flip-flops), forcing to dispose or carry animal or human carcasses.

Image of 'Dilution' of SC/ST Act

Image of ‘Dilution’ of SC/ST Act

Image of ‘Dilution’ of SC/ST Act

Decision of Dr Subhash Kashinath Mahajan V/s Maharashtra

  • In Dr Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v/s State of Maharashtra, Supreme Court was hearing Mahajan’s petition filed against order of Bombay High Court on 5th May 2017.

  • Dr Mahajan, serving as technical director of education in Maharashtra, was accused by junior in same department under Prevention of Atrocities Act for passing casteist remarks.

  • In its order, Bombay High Court refused to quash 1st information report (FIR) against Dr Mahajan.

  • In its directive on 20th March 2018, top court came out in support of public servants, who are otherwise accused of tormenting SCs & STs & other private citizens.

  • According to directive, action against former would require written permission of their appointing authority while verification from Senior Superintendent of Police would be necessary in case of latter.

  • Directive included having anticipatory bail where case was “motivated in bad faith”, as several instances of law being misused was reported since it came into being.

  • Other guidelines warranted preliminary enquiry before FIR was registered, recording reasons for arrest & giving them to person arrested & court, as they would be instrumental in deciding extent of detention.

Immediate Reaction of Dalit Organisations

  • Fearing dilution of Act & interpreting guidelines as threat to their security, Dalit organisations, across India protesting groups expressed their anger as they felt that powers of arrest were shackled w/this directive.
  • Judgement was delivered on 20th March 2018 by Supreme Court. Centre filed review petition on 2nd April, delaying necessary action by 2 weeks.
  • National Commission for SC & ST had demanded review, arguing that law must be restored in its original form to prevent any dilution.

- Published/Last Modified on: August 21, 2018

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