This article has been written by Stuti Malik, a student of Hidayatullah National Law University
All facets of society are getting the ability to imagine, design, and raise the level of life in their communities as India enters a time of fast expansion and wealth. Due to their empowerment in the areas of education, business, and society, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes have become one of India’s most advanced populations. Numerous offences against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been stopped thanks to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Act). But what exactly is the act?
The Schedule Cast and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Act)
In the state and union territories, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are defined in Article 342(1) as well as Article 366(25) of the Constitution of India as a special category of tribal group or community as and when declared by the President. The Act’s objectives and purpose are:
- The Act is the primary piece of legislation aimed at preventing offences against Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.
- As stated in the Act, Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts will be established to try individuals accused of such atrocities.
- The Act provides funds for their free rehabilitation, travel, and maintenance fees, with officials obligated to ensure that the act is properly implemented.
- Furthermore, the Act aims to integrate Dalits into society and safeguard their rights when crimes endanger to infringe their social, financial, political and democratic rights.
- The Act seeks to prevent exclusion and to help marginalised communities avoid it.
Let us discuss some case judgments related to the Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 Act.
Union of India v/s State of Maharashtra, 2019
Ratio– “Despite various measures to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, they remain vulnerable. They are denied number of civil rights. They are subjected to various offences, indignities, humiliations, and harassment. They have, in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their life and property. Serious crimes are committed against them for various historical, social, and economic reasons.
When they assert their rights and resist practices of untouchability against them or demand statutory minimum wages or refuse to do any bonded and forced labour, the vested interests try to cow them down and terrorize them. When the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes try to preserve their self-respect or honour of their women, they become irritants for the dominant and the mighty.
Occupation and cultivation of even the Government allotted land by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is resented and more often these people become victims of attacks by the vested interests. Of late, there has been an increase in the disturbing trend of the commission of certain atrocities like making the Scheduled Caste persons ear inedible substances, like human excreta and attacks on and mass killings of helpless Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and rape of women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Under the circumstances, the existing laws like the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the normal provisions of the Indian Penal Code have been found to be inadequate to check these crimes. Thus, A special legislation to check and deter crimes against them committed by non Scheduled Castes and non-scheduled Tribes has, therefore, become necessary.”
Bhim Singh v. Union of India , 2010
It was held that the test for the violation of separation of powers must be precisely this. A law would be violative of separation of powers not if it results in some overlap of functions of different branches of the State, but if it takes over an essential function of the other branch leading to lapse in constitutional accountability. It is through this test that we must analyse the present Scheme.”
Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v/s State Of Maharashtra, 2018
Ratio; The Supreme Court held that, “There is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide. We approve the view taken and approach of the Gujarat High Court in Pankaj D Suthar (supra) and Dr. N.T.Desai (supra) and clarify the judgments of this Court in Balothia (supra) and Manju Devi (supra);
In view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a nonpublic servant after approval by the S.S.P. which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded. Such reasons must be scrutinized by the Magistrate for permitting further detention.
To avoid false implication of an innocent, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the DSP concerned to find out whether the allegations make out a case under the Atrocities Act and that the allegations are not frivolous or motivated.”
Davinder Singh v State of Punjab, 2016
In this case, the Supreme Court has to decide whether the Legislation can provide preferential treatment to any specific caste under the Schedule Castes. The key issues of the case were i) if the provisions under Section 4(5) of the Punjab SC and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006 are valid under the Indian constitution? ii) If the state has the authority to enact provision under Section 2(5) of the Act? iii) If a larger bench is required to revisit the judgement in “E.V. Chinnaiah v State of Andra Pradesh”. The single Bench contended that the Judicial Magistrate lacks authority to listen to the complaint under this legislation, and that the Special Court established under Section 14 of the Act can hear and take cognizance of the complaint. The Magistrate is not required to refer the case to the Special Court, as is the case in most Sessions cases.
The 1989 Act has to be reviewed in terms of how it is being put into practise, and some parts that are helpful to the social climate right now and address the atrocities done against the weaker sections need to be amended. The effective execution of this Act is crucial for the diverse Indian culture and the country as a whole. There is also a recommendation that the national SC and ST awareness programmes, which help to educate people about their advantages under the Prevention of Atrocity Act, should tackle major offences like rape and murder of the weaker sections.
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