Parliament passes SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2015

Parliament has passed The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2015.

The bill was first passed in Lok Sabha in August 2015 and later in Rajya Sabha in December 2015. Now it will go for presidential assent.

Key features of the Bill

  • The bill seeks to amend parent law i.e. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  • It aims to prohibit the commission of offences against members of the SCs and STs and adds provisions for establishing special courts for the trial cases of such offences and the rehabilitation of victims.
  • Actions to be treated as offences: The Bill adds new categories of actions to be treated as offences committed by non SCs and STs and amends certain existing categories.
  • Impeding certain activities related to voting especially vote or not vote for a particular candidate will also be considered an offence.
  • Addition of new offences: (i) Garlanding SCs and STs with footwear (ii) Compelling to do manual scavenging or dispose carry animal or human carcasses. (iii) Abusing SCs/STs in public by caste name (iv) Disrespecting any deceased SCs/STs person held in high esteem or attempting to promote feelings of ill-will against SCs/STs (iv) Threatening or imposing economic and social boycott.
  • Offences in case of sexual exploiting of SC or ST woman: It will be considered as an offence in case of (i) Using acts, words or gestures of a sexual nature against SC/ST woman. (ii) Touching an SC/ST woman intentionally in a sexual manner without her consent (iii) Practice of dedicating an SC/ST women as a devadasi to a temple.
  • Following activities will be considered an offence: Preventing SCs/STs using common property resources, entering any places of public worship that is open to the public, and entering an education or health institution.
  • In case of any violation of any provisions mentioned in this act the courts will presume that the accused non SC/ST person was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim, unless it is proved.
  • Public servants role:The Bill add provision specifying duties of public servants which  includes (i) registering a FIR or complaint (ii) public servant must read out the information given oral complaint by SC/ST person before taking the signature of the victim and giving copy of this information to the victim.
  • It should be noted that parent Act has provision mentioning that public servant (non SC/ST) neglecting his duties related to SCs/STs will be punished with imprisonment for a term of 6 months to 1 year.
  • Establishments of Courts: The Bill adds provision specifying establishment of Exclusive Special Court and Special Court at the district level to try offences mentioned under this Act. Exclusive Public Prosecutor and Public Prosecutor will be appointed for every Exclusive Special Court and Special Court.
  • Rights of victims and witnesses:The bill adds new chapter dealing with the rights of victims and witness. It mentions that it shall be the duty of the state to make arrangements for the protection of victims and their dependents and the witnesses. It also mentions that state should specify a scheme to ensure the implementation of rights of victims and witnesses.

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