AFPA

“The history of India is nothing but a history of a mortal conflict between Buddhism and Brahminism”.

                                                                                                                       – Dr B R Ambedkar

  1. The recent Supreme Court order which allegedly diluted the Schedule Castes and Schedule tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act sparked of a flurry of Dalit protests in several states of the country and the resultant violence saw several loss of lives.
  2. The Supreme Court in its order on 20 March 2018 removed a provision for automatic arrests of those accused under the Act, and made it mandatory for the police to conduct preliminary enquiries within seven days of a complaint before filing an FIR. The judgment also mandated public servants arrest under this provision to be effected only with written concurrence of his superior in public authority. The honourable judges opined that the Atrocities Act was subject to misuse and criminal abuse by way of blackmail and extortion and has only served perpetuate casteism.Kkkkk
  3. To comprehend the nuances of this act and the resistance to the supreme court orders, there is a need to place the entire issue in perspective.

Genesis

    1. The genesis of the DALIT ATROCITIES ACT can be traced back to the centuries-old caste-based structure which in a contemporary context is not only discriminatory but inhuman and derogatory. The so called “CASTE SYSTEM” was institutionalized on the ritual and employment profile. The caste was assigned to a human based on the family and background rather than profiling an individual on his other qualities and traits which define modern day humans.
    2. The ATROCITIES were perpetuated on those failing to fulfill caste based obligations and functions and any dissent was perceived as rebellion. A study conducted by the National Commission for SCs and STs in 1990 on “Atrocities on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes: Causes and Remedies” pointed out various factors for atrocities: land disputes; land alienation; bonded labor; indebtedness; non-payment of minimum wages; caste prejudice and practice of untouchability; political factions on caste lines; refusal to perform traditional works such as digging burial pits, arranging cremations, removing carcasses of dead animals and beating drums; etc.
    3. Considered ritually impure, Scheduled Castes (SC) have been physically and socially excluded from mainstream society, denied basic resources and services, and discriminated against in all areas of life. Accordingly, they face various forms of exploitation, insults and violence, as well as degrading practices of untouchability. The Scheduled Tribes were equally exploited on grounds of not falling within the caste system but having a distinct culture and a view of their own. “Women belonging to these castes and tribes bore double burden. They were exploited by caste and gender, and were vulnerable to, and powerless against sexual exploitation.”
    4. The Constitution banned the practice of untouchability, in all its manifestations. Converting this provision into law was imperative and accordingly “THE UNTOUCHABILITY OFFENCES ACT 1955” was enacted. The Act enabled dalits/untouchables access to all those public amenities and facilities which were earlier denied only for their perceived lower caste status. Any infringement to this access by any person shall be liable for prosecution under the statute. The public amenities included temples, wells, roads, medical facilities and schools.
    5. However, at the functional level the opposition and discrimination by the upper caste continued and more often ended in physical and verbal assault of the Dalits who were powerless financially, emotionally and socially to retaliate. These atrocities could not be dealt with under the provision of the act and forced the legislature to enact a law in 1989 called THE PREVENTION OF DALIT ATROCITIES ACT.
    6. THE SCs AND STs (PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES) ACT, 1989 with stringent provisions was promulgated on 9 September 1989. Under the powers vested in the government under Section 23(1) of the Act, THE SCHEDULED CASTES AND THE SCHEDULED TRIBES (PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES) RULES OF 1995 were framed. The rules for the Act were notified on 31 March 1995.
    7. This law facilitates –
      Punishing crimes against people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
      Special protections and rights to victims.
      Setting up courts for fast completion of cases.
      Increased punishments for some crimes.
      Punishing cruel and degrading crimes which are socially and humanly unacceptable.

Atrocity

    1. Indian jurisprudence “ATROCITY” could be defined post THE ACT, as –
      • Atrocity is an expression commonly referred to as crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
      • Atrocity is cruel and inhuman acts of unimaginable magnitude.
      • Any offence under THE INDIAN PENAL CODE perpetrated by a non Scheduled Caste against an SC/ST person will be brought under the preview of ATROCITY. Caste Consideration as a motive for such a crime is not mandatory.
      • 22 offences in consonance with established patterns of behaviours which demean degrade and inflict shattering impact on SCs and STs, besides  denial of economic, democratic and social rights, discrimination, exploitation and abuse of the legal process are included in the provisions of this act.

Comments

  1. Opinion is divided on the validity and relevance of the Court judgement.Ghgh. Predictably the affected group perceive the judgement as a “judicial over reach” which tends to dilute the provisions framed by the legislature and vociferously demand the rescinding the said order relating to arrests of persons under the ACT.

There is another school of thought which propagates the judgements as a relief to those who are victims of perceived misuse of this act. The Court maintains that the judgement in no way dilutes THE DALIT ATROCITIES ACT Per-se.