Scheduled Castes Current Affairs

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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SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act: Government to File Review Petition

Union law ministry is preparing to file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that puts a stop to immediate arrests in complaints filed under its provisions.

Back ground

Previously, in an attempt to curb the misuse of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989) and protect honest public servants Supreme Court gave following verdict:

  • An arrest is not mandatory under the SC/ST Act, and the automatic arrest has been scrapped.
  • The court further directed that public servants can only be arrested with the written permission of their appointing authority. This was to protect public servants and private employees from arbitrary arrests under the Atrocities Act
  • Supreme Court also ruled that before arresting a public servant under the Act, a preliminary investigation by an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent is a must

SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act

Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was enacted in the year 1989.  It is a comprehensive law which not only defines atrocities against SCs and STs but also make several rules, regulations etc. for proper protection of these vulnerable classes. One of the provisions of the law states 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. Ministry of Social Justice is the nodal ministry to enforce the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

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