Bills and Acts

Lok Sabha passes Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018

Lok Sabha has unanimously passed Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018 to reverse effects of Supreme Court  order concerning certain safeguards against arrests under SC/ST law. The Bill seeks to amend the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Background

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 protects marginalised communities against discrimination and atrocities. It prohibits commission of offences against members of SCs/STs and establishes special courts for trial of such offences and rehabilitation of victims. In 2018, Supreme Court had expressed concern over misuse of Act and ruled against automatic arrest of booking of accused under this law. It also had introduced provision of anticipatory bail. It had stated that for persons accused of committing offence under Act, approval of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) will be required before an arrest is made.  Further, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) may conduct preliminary enquiry to find out whether there is prima facie case under Act.

Features of Bill

The Bill states that investigating officer will not require approval of any authority for arrest of accused. Further, it provides that preliminary enquiry will not be required for registration of First Information Report (FIR) against person accused under Act. The Act states that persons accused of committing offence under Act cannot apply for anticipatory bail. It also clarifies that this provision will apply despite any judgments or orders of any court that provide otherwise, thus overturning SC judgment given in April 2018.

Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

It is popularly known as Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act or simply Atrocities Act. Its prime objective is to deliver justice to marginalised through proactive efforts, giving them life of dignity, self-esteem and life without fear, violence or suppression from dominant castes. The Act lists 22 offences relating to various patterns or behaviours inflicting criminal offences and breaking self-respect and esteem of SC/ST community. This includes denial of economic, democratic and social rights, discrimination, exploitation and abuse of legal process.

The Act also provides protection to SC/ST community 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, injury, sexual exploitation etc, atrocities affecting properties, malicious prosecution, political disabilities and economic exploitation. The Section 14 of the Act For speedy trial provides for Court of Session to be Special Court to try offences under this Act in each district.

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Parliament passes bill to provide constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Classes

Parliament has passed Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill, 2017 that seeks to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). Now, the bill will be sent to President for his assent (as per 368 of Constitution). Parliament also passed separate bill to repeal National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 as it will become irrelevant once Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill comes into force.

Key Features of Bill

The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill provides for granting of constitutional status to NCBC on par with National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCSTs). It empowers President to specify socially and educationally backward classes in various states and union territories in consultation with Governor of concerned state.

The bill provides duties of NCBC to investigate and monitor safeguards provided to socially and educationally backward classes backward classes under Constitution and other laws being implemented and probe specific complaints regarding violation of rights. It also provides NCBC with powers of civil court while probing any complaint against notified socially and educationally backward classes.

Background

The Constitutional Amendment Bill was first passed with over two-third majority, with all 406 members present voting in favour. It had passed bill by superseding amendments suggested by earlier by Rajya Sabha by incorporating alternate amendments as well as some more changes. The bill passed by Lok Sabha was again passed by Rajya Sabha in same format with absolute majority and over two-third majority of members present and voting (All 156 members present in the house voted in favour of the bill).

Note: Lok Sabha in April 2017 (Budget session 2017) had passed Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 and sent it to the Rajya Sabha. But in July 2017 (during 2017 Monsoon session), Rajya Sabha passed bill after incorporating certain amendments moved by Congress-led opposition and returned it to Lok Sabha for ratification of amendments. The amendments had increased three-member NCBC to five members so as give representation to woman and person from minority community. It also had mandated that all five members should necessarily be from OBC communities. It also had added another amendment sought to protect federal structure by giving states significant role in making recommendation to the list. Among suggested amendments, Union government had agreed to appoint one woman member from backward classes in NCBC. Other amendments were rejected.

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