Atrocities Against SCs/STs


    In News

    • The recent incident of a crime against a Dalit boy in Rajasthan highlights many underlined issues.
      • Two days before India celebrated its 76th Independence Day, a nine-year-old Dalit boy from Rajasthan died at a hospital after allegedly being thrashed by his school principal.

    Crimes and issues faced by SCs/STs:

    • Cases in Rajasthan:
      • Despite the massive presence of the SC/ST population, Rajasthan ranks fourth — after Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh — in the country in cases of atrocities against the community. 
      • As per data of the National Crime Records Bureau, the State recorded over 7,000 cases of crimes and atrocities against SC/ST community members in 2020.
    • National level:
      • 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.
    • Historical marginalisation:
      • Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been, for centuries, the most neglected, marginalized and exploited people in India. 
      • These communities suffered from extreme social, educational, and economic backwardness arising out of:
        • Age-old practice of un touch ability
        • Primitive agricultural practices,
        • Lack of infrastructure facilities and
        • Geographical isolation.
    • Denial of basic rights:
      • In states like Rajasthan, the communities still do not get their basic rights and freedom.
        • They are denied simple rights like growing a mustache, wearing particular dress or riding horse.
        • In few districts in Rajasthan each community has a separate cremation ground.
      • People feel that such actions mean no discrimination and claim that it is the custom

    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

    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

    • 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.
    • Judicial bias:
      • Judicial bias against Dalits is rampant and unchecked, and court decisions frequently bear the mark of such bias.

    Source: TH