India is a land of diversities where people from different strata and background have lived together for centuries. But they haven’t always lived together in perfect harmony and with a growing social divide, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 was brought in.
The one major objective of this Act is to prevent oppression of people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It also seeks to deter people from committing such oppression and providing victims with special rights and privileges.
A fast-track court for complaints made by anyone from the SC and ST community is also established. Not only does the Act increase punishment in some instances for crimes under Indian Penal Code (IPC) but also targets specific crimes – generally humiliating in nature – against SC and ST communities.
An amended law came into effect from January 26 of 2016 which widened offences recognised by the Act and also promised to further ensure a speedy judicial process.
Controversy erupted last month on March 20, the Supreme Court unfortunately noted that there are instances of abuse using SC/ST Act against government servants and that a public servant can only be arrested after approval of the appointing authority. Whereas a non-public servant can be arrested after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded.
A preliminary inquiry will also have to be conducted before an FIR is filed and it is to be ascertained whether the charges fall under the Act or is a result of political and/or personal reasons. This has now come under a barrage of criticism. Several Dalit and other SC and ST communities have called for a Bharat Bandh against the SC order. The order will clamp down on their rights and will be used against them. They fear that instances reporting crimes against SCs and STs will also come down as a result of the modification.
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has expressed its reservations against the Supreme Court’s verdict, but did not demand to uphold the provisions of the existing laws as it is. However, they have appealed that the Act should not be modified in any way and that it should be brought back as it was before the apex court’s verdict.
Union Govt has clarified that the matter will be taken up and that the government is all set to file a review petition. Several SC and ST MPs had also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the matter, but “Touch me not behaviour” of our Prime Minister continues, which needs a ratification.
The country stands united that such inconsistent interference into existing statue are hurting SC and ST community and if the Supreme Court do not ratify the error in passing of the order, it is pertinent on the part of the Union Government to bring an Ordinance to read the status quo over of the law as on prior to passing order by the Supreme Court without repeal of any section or sections whatsoever.