Independent courts for atrocities cases against SCs/STs

October 8th, 2008 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 8 (IANS) As atrocities against disadvantaged social groups continue to mount, every Indian district will soon get independent special courts to try such cases and impart speedy justice, says a senior official of the social justice and empowerment ministry.The special courts will be created by amending the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The amendments are likely to be moved during the month-long parliament session beginning Oct 17.

“The independent special courts will look into the cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SCs/STs) without the requirement for them to be referred by a magistrate,” the official, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS.

At present, a notified special court takes up cases of atrocities against SCs/STs only after they are referred to them by a magistrate. Now, victims can directly approach the special courts for justice.

The proposed amendment reads: “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, a special court specified under sub-section (1) shall be competent to try offences under this Act (Prevention of Atrocities) as a court of original jurisdiction without the case having been committed to it by a magistrate under the said code.”

In India, SCs and STs, who account for 24.4 percent of the country’s billion plus population, have been vulnerable to social atrocities but have failed to resist this unjust treatment - perhaps because of rampant poverty among them.

According to Mrityunjay Nayak, a former member of the Lok Sabha, “only all-round upliftment can insulate SCs/STs against social atrocities and discrimination.”

An official estimate says that nearly 30,000 cases are annually reported and registered under the Prevention of Atrocities Act across the country.

In 2005, 31,387 cases were registered, with 5,970, 4,657, and 4,375 cases respectively from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The 2004-05 report of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), says 36.8 percent of SCs in rural areas belong to the below poverty line (BPL) category, with the figure for urban areas being 39.9 percent.

The poverty line is currently pegged at monthly per capita income of Rs.327.56 in rural areas, and Rs.454.11 in urban areas.

The level of poverty is much higher among STs, with 47.3 percent in rural areas falling in the BPL category, while 33.3 percent in the urban areas earn Rs. 454.11 or less per month.

Nayak said the amendment in the POA Act would certainly improve the situation, but there is need for proper monitoring of the way the special courts function.

“Putting in place some mechanisms is good, but what is more important is how to make them effectively functional. That continues to be an area of concern,” said Nayak, also a member of India’s National Commission for SCs.

The ministry of social justice and empowerment headed by Meira Kumar, the daughter of India’s great Dalit icon Jagjivan Ram, will also ensure it gets a detailed report of every atrocity committed within four days of the registration of a first information report (FIR).

At present, the ministry or the national commission for SCs or STs has to seek such reports from the state governments or district administrations.

“It takes at least 15 days to get a detailed report if we pursue the matter vigorously by sending letters and making phone calls,” Nayak pointed out.

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