Insights into Editorial: Supreme Court judgement: Dilution the SC/ST act
- Recently several states were affected by violence and clashes following Bandh call given by several SC/ST organisations protesting the Supreme court’s recent judgement on SC/ST act in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra. The earlier amendments which tried to make the act stringent did not serve the purpose as well.
Key findings of the NCRB report :-
- India has over 180 million Dalits. A crime is committed against a Dalit every 15 minutes. Six Dalit women are raped every day. Over the last 10 years (2007-2017), there has been a 66% growth in crime against Dalits.
- In fact, the share of false cases under the SC/ST Act has declined over time (2009-2015).
- A total of 40,774 cases were registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and other sections of law over alleged crimes against SCs and STs in the year 2016.
- Of these, charge-sheets were filed in 78.3 per cent cases, and the conviction rate was 25.8 per cent.
- Assaults on women with the intent to outrage modesty, at 7.7% (3172 cases), reported the highest number of cases of crimes/atrocities against Scheduled Castes (SCs), followed by rape with 6.2% (2541 cases) during 2016.
- Uttar Pradesh in reporting the maximum number of crimes against Dalits.
- In cities too, the trend was reflected with Lucknow reporting 88 cases of crimes against women .This accounted for more than 30% of all crimes against Dalits reported in Lucknow. More than 40 of these cases were of rape.
- In the case of Scheduled Tribes, the number of cases stood at 6,568 in 2016. In the case of STs, Madhya Pradesh (1,823 cases) reported the highest number of cases of atrocities at 27.8% followed by Rajasthan with 18.2% (1,195 cases) and Odisha with 10.4% (681 cases).
- In the case of STs, there were 974 rape cases which constituted 14.8% of all crime against them, followed by assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty with 12.7% (835 cases) and kidnapping and abduction with 2.5% (163 cases).
- Based on data it shows that it is mostly ineffective implementation of the act that is leading to atrocities rather than misuse.
Implications of supreme court judgement which diluted the SC/ST act :–
- Data from the National Crime Records Bureau shows that the proportion of false cases registered under the act has actually fallen. Moreover, the method of using conviction rates to evaluate whether a law is sound is fraught with danger.
- Given the upper-caste control of the law and order machinery, conviction rates in caste-related crimes will be low.
- Dilution of the act will result in increasing of atrocities against Dalits and also create a rift in the society.
- Many incidents happen that don’t get reported under the Act because people who aren’t educated don’t even know it exists.
- Most Dalits do not register cases for fear of retaliation by higher castes.
- Experts say that the judgment effectively neutralises the Act which provided some sense of protection to hapless people against oppressive societal prejudices.
- There are studies, such as one by the Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad, which have exposed how cases of atrocities result in acquittal due to the anti-Dalit attitude of the law enforcement.
Is it Judicial Over reach?
- It’s certainly not. Supreme Court has taken its decisions after studying cases from various High Courts of the country. Government deals with making laws and regulations for the proper functioning of the society.
High Courts have given advice to Supreme Court depending upon its study of cases and rulings. An innocent should not be punished. There should not be terror in the society.
- If any law made by government is falling short of desired result and not functioning well in the Society, it is the Duty of Judiciary to remove the short comings and suggest measures for proper functioning. Supreme Court and High Courts of the Country, have found issues in the laws and hence updated it in accordance to new updated version to deal with the Atrocities against the SC/STs.
Meaning behind supreme court and why this is right (Innocent citizens cannot be terrorised by SC/ST Act provisions, says Supreme Court ):-
- Supreme court gave the judgement on the pretext that Innocents cannot be terrorised by the provisions of the SC/ST Act and their fundamental rights need to be protected.
- Article 21 of the Constitution equally applies to all the citizens and none of the provisions of SC/ST Act has been diluted.
- Enough safeguards are provided so that interests of the innocents are protected from being arrested and false cases are not encouraged.
- The reasons behind the low conviction, which is 15%, is because cases are registered without proper investigation and a simple accusation leads to an FIR which does not stand scrutiny in a court of law. This exercise is a way to harass people and is a complete waste of time of both the police and the court.
- More cases under the Act are filed in rural areas as opposed to urban areas where caste identities are blurred. It is easier to falsely implicate people in rural areas. So protection to all citizens is necessary.
- “Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The responsibilities to maintain law and order, protection of life and property of the citizens rest primarily with the respective state governments.
- The Supreme Court judgement need to be seen in the context of social justice rather than as partisan. It said that mandate of court is to protect the Constitutional rights and “fundamental rights of citizens has to be kept at the highest pedal”.
- SC stated that “liberty of the innocents cannot be allowed to be taken away. If no forum is there, then some forum in court has to be there to protect the interest of innocent citizens.”
- Honourable SC has just tried to create a balance between protecting rights of weaker sections and rights of innocents. Article 21 is for ALL. While ensuring safety of one, rights of another should not be compromised.
- SDG 2030 Goal 16 deals with Peace and Justice. The new and pdate rule will not only provide Benefit to SC/ST Community but would also Benefit Innocent and Law abiding Citizens and Government Officials that Perform Their Duties Honestly and for Country’s better Future.
- There is need for Stakeholders to understand full aspect of new rulings before criticising the SC and its Judgement. SC has been one of the Basic Pillars for Indian Democracy since its inception and has taken several decisions that benefitted Indian Citizens and Country as Section 18 of the Act is its “backbone” as it enforces an inherent deterrence and instils a sense of protection among members of the SCs/STs.
- The need of hour is understanding the concept and Reasons behind this Ruling and Pointing Error, if any, in the law to SC. There must be Collaborative Political Debates and Discussions on topics on National Interests.