Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act Amendment - Seeker's Thoughts

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Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act Amendment


The SC and ST PoA has been lately a lot in news, as the lower house of the Parliament amended it.  The fear among SC/ST communities rose. So the topic holds utmost importance. 

What was till now?
Schedule castes and Schedule tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989   

It is popularly known as prevention of atrocities (PoA) Act or simply atrocities Act. It has prime objective to deliver justice to marginalized sections through proactive efforts. It includes  giving them life of dignity, self-esteem and a life without fear, violence or suppression from dominant castes. 
The Act lists 22 offences relating to various patterns or behaviors inflicting criminal offences and breaking self-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 disability such as denying access to certain places, to use customary passage, personal atrocities like forceful drinking or eating of inedible food, injury, and sexual exploitation. Further, it also includes atrocities affecting properties, malicious prosecution, political disabilities and economic exploitation. The section 14 of the Act advocates for speedy trial in Special Court to try offences under this Act in each district.

Why there was a need to amend the (PoA) act?

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 has 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 that is – in legal practice the term generally is used to describe two things: the presentation of enough evidence by a civil claimant to support the legal claim, or a piece of evidence itself.

 Key Features of the amendment bill 2018

1-      The Amendment Act introduced the establishment of exclusive special court and special public prosecutors to try offences under the PoA Act, so that case is disposed of expeditiously.

2-      The law requires these courts to take direct cognizance of an offence and complete the trial of the case within two months from the date of filling of the charge sheet.

3-      The new law defines the term ‘willful negligence’ in the context of public servants at all levels, starting from the registration of the complaint to dereliction- (willful neglect of one’s duty) under this Act.

4-      More importantly, it adds a section called the ‘presumption as to offences’ --- that is, if an accused is acquainted with the victim or his family, the court may presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identify of the victim unless proved otherwise.

Notably --- The new law, however does not touch section 18 of the original scheduled caste and the scheduled tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act of 1989. This provision does not allow an accused person, who is alleged to have caused injury to and insulted a Dalit, to apply for anticipatory bail.

India is a diverse country, large number of populations in India are belong to SC/ST. Citizens of marginalized community face atrocities from upper caste communities. They are beaten up by some corrupt public servants according to some media reports. They have been facing harsh treatment from society too. Government has introduced important features in PoA amendment bill to curb the atrocities and usher in socio-economic justice.