Crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes


    In News

    • According to the latest figures, cases of crime against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have risen progressively in the years between 2018 and 2020.

    More about the news

    • Cases registered for crime against SCs rose from 42,793 in 2018 to over 50,000 in 2020, and of crime against STs from 6,528 to 8,272 in the same period.
      •  The figures are sourced from the National Crime Records Bureau.
    • The figures also detailed how many cases had resulted in charge sheets being filed, and how many were pending investigation at the end of each of these years.

    Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act

    • Induction:
      • In 1989, the Government of India enacted the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in order to prevent atrocities against SC/STs. 
      • The purpose of the Act was to prevent atrocities and help in the social inclusion of Dalits into society. 
    • Aim:
      • This legislation aims at preventing the commission of offences by persons other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 
    • Offender:
      • Any person who is not a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe and commits an offence listed in the Act against a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe is an offender.
    • Cognizable offence:
      • All offences listed in the Act are cognizable. 
      • The police can arrest the offender without a warrant and start an investigation into the case without taking any orders from the court.
    • Punishments:
      • The Act prescribes both minimum as well as maximum punishment. 
      • The minimum in most cases is six months imprisonment while the maximum is five years sentence and with a fine. 
      • In some cases, the minimum is enhanced to one year while the maximum goes up to life imprisonment or even death sentence.

    Challenges in implementation of the Act

    • A failed Act:
      • Act with many teeth but which seldom bites. Although the Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA) is a powerful and precise weapon on paper, in practice the Act has suffered from a near-complete failure in implementation
    • Primary obstacles:
      • Ironically, the primary obstacles to implementation are intended to be the primary enforcers of the Act—the lowest rungs of the police and bureaucracy that form the primary node of interaction between state and society in the rural areas. 
      • Policemen have displayed a consistent unwillingness to register offenses under the act. 
      • This reluctance stems partially from ignorance.
    • Caste bias:
      • In most cases, unwillingness to file a First Information Report (FIR) under the Act comes from caste bias. 
      • Upper caste policemen are reluctant to file cases against fellow caste members because of the severity of the penalties imposed by the Act; most offenses are non-bailable and carry a minimum punishment of five years imprisonment
    • Follow-up of the cases:
      • Failure to follow through with cases is alarmingly apparent at the lowest echelons of the judicial system.
    • Creation of Special Courts:
      • The POA mandated the creation of Special Courts precisely to circumvent this problem, only a few states have created separate Special Courts in accordance with the law.
    • Conviction:
      • Even if cases make it to trial, the POA also suffers from abysmal rates of conviction.
      • Judicial delay is just one cause of this low conviction rate; the lapse between the case being registered and the trial means that witnesses who are often poor and face intimidation in the interim, turn hostile and the case becomes too weak for a conviction. 
        • The long wait also results in many plaintiffs losing interest. 
      • Judicial bias against Dalits is rampant and unchecked, and court decisions frequently bear the mark of such bias.

    Other provisions safeguarding the rights of SCs and Sts in India

    • The Indian Government has enacted laws to remove negative discrimination and has also brought in many reforms to improve the quality of life for the weaker sections of society. Few among them are:
      • Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights
      • Abolition of ‘ untouchability’ in 1950
      • Provision of reservations in places like educational institutions, for employment opportunities etc.
      • Establishing social welfare departments and national commissions for the welfare of scheduled castes and tribes.
    • Right to Equality 
      • Articles 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the Constitution of India highlight the Right to Equality in detail. 
      • It refers to equality in the eyes of law, discarding any unfairness on grounds of caste, race, religion, place of birth sex
      • It also includes equality of prospects in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles


    National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB)

    • It was set up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals.
    • It was established on the recommendations of the Tandon Committee to the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Taskforce (1985).
    • NCRB was entrusted with the responsibility for monitoring, coordinating and implementing the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project in the year 2009.
      • This project connects 15000+ police stations and 6000 higher offices of police in the country.
    • In August 2017, NCRB launched the National Digital Police Portal, which allows search for a criminal/suspect on the CCTNS database.
    • The Bureau has also been entrusted to maintain the National Database of Sexual Offenders (NDSO) and share it with the States/UTs on a regular basis.
    • NCRB has also been designated as the Central Nodal Agency to manage technical and operational functions of the Online Cyber-Crime Reporting Portal.

    Source: IE