How effective are existing legal frameworks, such as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, in preventing and punishing discrimination and violence against vulnerable groups? Is there room for improvement? If yes, what? Explain.
कमजोर समूहों के खिलाफ भेदभाव और हिंसा को रोकने और दंडित करने में अनुसूचित जाति और अनुसूचित जनजाति (अत्याचार निवारण) अधिनियम, 1989 जैसे मौजूदा कानूनी ढांचे कितने प्रभावी हैं? क्या इनमें सुधार की गुंजाइश है? अगर हाँ तो क्या? समझाएं।
Candidates can start the answer by writing basics on PoA or its objective and also highlight the effectiveness of the act in curbing the discrimination also write the drawbacks with some suggestions to improve in the end.
The Act lists various offenses relating to various patterns or behaviours inflicting criminal offenses and breaking the self-respect and esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes’ community, which includes denial of economic, democratic, and social rights, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse of the legal process.
PoA, was enacted to protect the marginalized communities against discrimination and atrocities:
- Awareness: The POA has improved awareness regarding different types of atrocities faced by SCs and STs = ensured the reduction in the crime rate because of resultant legal punishment.
- Change in Mindset: The act has created a positive change in the mindset of upper caste towards SCs and STs.
- Empowerment: POA has improved the political participation of Dalits. SCs and STs are now able to avail better education and health facilities without much discrimination. The act has helped Dalits economically by increasing access to grants and finances from the government without any discrimination. Thus, the act has ensured the inclusive development of the Indian economy.
- Ensuring rights: The act has increased awareness among SC/ST about various rights provided by the constitution. The act has ensured Right to Equality as guaranteed under the Fundamental Rights of Indian Constitution. The act has helped in protecting the unique identity and traditional practices of these communities.
Some of the facts that raise questions over the effectiveness of the SC/ST PoA Act:
- POA act is among the most misused laws in India. Many use this act to settle a personal score or to defame some innocent person.
- Increase in crimes: As per the NCRB report, 2019, Crimes against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities increased by 7.3% and 26.5% respectively in 2019.
- State-wise: Uttar Pradesh has the most number of cases of crime against SCs – 11,829 cases, which is 25.8% of the total such cases in the country followed by Rajasthan with 6,794 cases (14.8% of all cases), Bihar (14.2%), and Madhya Pradesh (11.5%).
- Conviction rate: According to a status report on the implementation of the PoA Act, released by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ), over the decade prior to 2018, the average conviction rate under (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis remained at 25.2% and 22.8% respectively.
- Legal system: Consequently, there has been a huge backlog of cases pertaining to atrocity crimes and a slow process of resolving them. The Special Courts are not adequately resourced.
Scope of improvement:
- Registration of Cases: Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) should be developed for filing and investigating cases so that there is no confusion or doubt among the investigators about the procedure to be followed.
- Training and Capacity building of judges, lawyers, and policemen is required in these types of cases
- Prosecution: Successful prosecution of genuine cases by the lawyers must be rewarded.
- Research: There is a requirement for research into the types of punishment, as an alternative to imprisonment that can prevent future crimes by individuals or communities.
Laws alone cannot realize the vision of our constitution-makers it requires the educational and economic advancement of the backward communities like SCs and STs in India and educational reforms all over the country so that root cause of the discrimination can be dealt with.