Monday, August 2, 2010

[ZESTCaste] 'Invoke SC/ST Act for anti-dalit crimes'

'Invoke SC/ST Act for anti-dalit crimes'

Subodh Ghildiyal, TNN, Aug 1, 2010, 01.03am IST

NEW DELHI: As the high court verdict in the Khairlanji rape-cum-murder
case invites criticism from activists and intellectuals, Lok Sabha
speaker Meira Kumar has underlined that heinous crimes against dalits
should be booked under the Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) Act.

Kumar said the Khairlanji massacre was a crime perpetrated by non-SCs
on SCs which should have automatically attracted the Act, but did not.
"Such instances should be booked under the PoA. That will take care of
everything," she told TOI.

The speaker was replying to queries in the backdrop of the Bombay High
Court ruling which has commuted the death sentence to the accused and
also ruled that the gruesome crime against Bhaiyyalal Bhootmange's
family was one of revenge and not of caste prejudice.

Kumar's concern that crimes against dalits by non-dalits should be
booked under PoA seems to nail the root cause behind the prosecution's
failure to convict the accused in such cases.

The Khairlanji FIR did not mention the PoA and it is believed to have
weakened the case. The lax probe triggered an agitation after which it
was transferred to CBI.

The HC verdict delivered recently has led to criticism as it not only
commuted the death sentence given by the Bhandara court to life
imprisonment but also reiterated the "no-caste-crime" view. Bhootmange
plans to appeal against it in the Supreme Court. But observers are
concerned that the court did not see caste as having played a role in
the murder of four persons including the gruesome rape of two women.

This has been a sticking point. Even when the Bhandara court's death
sentence in September 2008 was acclaimed as landmark in the history of
crimes against dalits, Kumar, as Union social justice minister, asked
the state government and the Union personnel ministry to appeal
against the verdict.

The post-high court order scene remains as grim with the issue even
finding mention in the meeting of the National Advisory Council headed
by UPA chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on July 14.
Narendra Jadhav brought the issue to the notice of the NAC chair and
said the case had been weakened by the police failure to book the
crime under the PoA.

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