Context:  The Supreme Court of India, in a recent judgment said that all insults or intimidations to persons belonging to Dalit or tribal communities will not be an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

More on the news:

  • The court was hearing an appeal filed by a man, booked under the Act for allegedly abusing a Dalit woman in her house.
  • The court held, since the incident occurred within four walls in the absence of members of the public, allegations against Verma under the Act do not stand. The man can be tried under ordinary criminal law.

The court’s observation: 

  • The insult should be specifically intended to humiliate the victim for his caste.
  • Offence under the Act is not established merely on the fact that the complainant is a member of Scheduled Caste unless there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste.
  • The object of the Act is to punish the violators who inflict indignities, humiliations and harassment.

Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018:

  • The act nullified the Supreme court of India’s judgment which had diluted the stringent provisions of the original Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Source: TH

Salient Features of the Amendment Act:

  • Added Section 18A to the original Act:
    • It states that for the Prevention of Atrocities Act, the preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person.
    • The provision of section 438 (pre-arrest bail) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) shall not apply to a case under the Act, notwithstanding any judgment or order or direction of any Court.
  • Delineates specific crimes: Against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as atrocities and describes strategies and prescribes punishments to counter these acts.
  • Cognizable: It identifies all offences listed in the Act as cognizable. 
    • The police can arrest the offender without a warrant and start an investigation into the case without taking any orders from the court.
  • Special courts: The Act calls upon all the states to convert an existing sessions court in each district into a Special Court to try cases registered under it.
  • Appointment of Public Prosecutors/Special Public Prosecutors: For conducting cases in special courts.
  • Atrocity-prone areas: The Act creates provisions for states to declare areas with high levels of caste violence to be “atrocity-prone” and to appoint qualified officers to monitor and maintain law and order.
  • Wilful neglect of duties: The Act provides for the punishment for wilful neglect of duties by non-SC/ST public servants.
  • Implemented by: The Act is implemented by the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations, which are provided due central assistance.

Source: TH