Monday, February 1, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Call for review of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act

Call for review of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act
Special Correspondent

Dalit activists here have called for an urgent review of the Scheduled
Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and
introduction of amendments to provide more teeth to the statute while
classifying acts such as discrimination, social and economic boycott
and blackmail as crimes under the legislation.

Making the demands at a symposium marking the completion of 20 years
of the SC/ST (PoA) Act here on Sunday, representatives of Dalit
organisations regretted that despite the law having been in force for
two decades, atrocities against Dalits were increasing and the
authorities responsible for implementing the Act were seen siding with
the perpetrators of crime.

The symposium was organised jointly by Jaipur-based Centre for Dalit
Rights, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and the National Dalit
Movement for Justice.

The SC/ST (PoA) Act, which received the Presidential assent on
September 11, 1989 and came into effect on January 30, 1990, invests
the State actors with the responsibility to prevent atrocities and
provide protection, relief and rehabilitation to the affected people
belonging to SC and ST.

CDR Director Satish Kumar pointed out that the National Crime Records
Bureau's figures had revealed that 71 per cent of the atrocities
against Dalits and tribals reported between 1995 and 2007 were not
registered under the Act. Even in the matters where the Act was
applied, proper sections were not used, investigation took more than
30 days and compensation was not paid.

The participants noted with dismay that the rate of conviction under
the SC/ST (PoA) Act was less than that under the Indian Penal Code.
They said the criminals booked under the Act could be handed down
punishment commensurate with the crime after conviction only if the
legislation was strengthened through suitable amendments.

Dalit organisations have already submitted draft amendments to the
Union Government after wide-ranging discussions with a cross-section
of civil society. A National Coalition for Strengthening of SC/ST
(PoA) Act was also formed in September last year.

Dalit activists said the punishment for various crimes listed in the
Act should be enhanced in accordance with the gravity of offence and
special courts and public prosecutors appointed all over the country
to ensure speedy trial under the statute.

"Higher castes resorting to social and economic boycott of Dalits,
filing counter cases, refusing to pay wages to Dalit labourers,
ransacking houses of Dalits and discriminating against Dalit children
in schools do not constitute offences under the Act," said CDR
chairman R. K. Akodia and added that these discrepancies should be

The participants also said the definition of Scheduled Castes for the
purpose of the SC/ST (PoA) Act should be amended to include all the
persons whose ancestors belonged to Dalit castes in Hinduism and later
converted to Islam and Christianity.

The activists also suggested that a new chapter titled "rights of
victims and witnesses" be incorporated in the Act with the provisions
such as mandatory registration of FIR, investigation and inquiry,
protection, medical examination and reports, relief, compensation and

Among others, Dalit activists P. L. Mimroth, Toshita Verma, Anuradha
Gharti and Yamini addressed the symposium.


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