SC/ST Act:

 #GS II #Government Policies and Interventions

Topic Government Policies and Interventions


  • The Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) Act will not be violated if someone uses someone else’s caste name in jest or says it in the middle of a conversation unless the offender intended to humiliate the victim specifically because of their Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) identity, the Orissa High Court recently ruled.

It has changed since the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989:

Constitutional provisions:

  • Article 17 of the constitution forbade the practise of untouchability. In compliance with the stipulations of Articles 14, 15, and 17 of the constitution, the parliament passed the Untouchability (Offenses) Act of 1955. In 1976, the act’s name was changed to the protection of civil rights act.
  • But because past legislation had failed, the “Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989” was passed.

SC/ST Act of 1989:

  • The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989, popularly known as the SC/ST Act, was created to protect the marginalised groups from prejudice and atrocities.
  • Denial of economic, democratic, and social rights, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse of the legal system are just a few of the offences listed under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes Act as patterns or behaviours that lead to criminal offences and undermine the community’s self-respect and self-esteem.
  • Criminals are not eligible for anticipatory bail under section 18 of the statute.
  • Every public employee who willfully violates this law’s requirements is subject to a jail sentence of up to six months.

 Prevent Atrocities Against SC/ST Act 2015:

  • The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015, was introduced to strengthen the statute with the following clauses:
  • The number of “atrocities” committed against SCs and STs was increased.
  • It authorised the establishment of exclusive special courts and special public prosecutors to hear charges involving violations of the PoA Act.
  • It defined “wilful negligence” for all public employees, including those who file complaints and those who disobey this Act’s requirements.
  • The court will assume that the accused knew the victim’s caste or tribal identity unless it can be shown otherwise if they were acquainted with him or his family.

2018 SC decision:

  • In its Kashinath Mahajan ruling, the Supreme Court imposed the following safeguards for the accused under the SC/ST Act.

 Key guidelines:

  • Judges may still grant advance bail even though a complaint is without substance since “Preliminary Inquiry” is necessary in every instance before the submission of formal police reports (FIRs).
  • A person cannot be brought into custody by an investigating officer until the “appointing authority” (in the case of a public employee) or the SP (in the case of others) accepts the arrest.

2018 amendment to the Act:

  • Due to the public outcry over this law’s weakening and Parliament’s passing of Section 18A in 2018, the Supreme Court’s protective measures were reversed.
  • There is no need for an initial investigation prior to filing a First Information Report against someone.
  • The accused may be taken into custody at any time in accordance with this law.
  • The prospect of anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code is no longer an option.

2020: Prathvi Raj Chauhan’s case:

  • The legality of Section 18-A of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, was contested in this case.
  • A three-judge panel of the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutionality of section 18-A in this case and ruled that pre-arrest bail should only be granted under extraordinary circumstances when rejecting release would lead to a miscarriage of justice.
  • Judges can only authorise anticipatory bail under specific conditions; they cannot do so routinely.

How effective has the SC/ST Act been?

The SC/ST PoA Act’s effectiveness is called into question by the statistics shown below:

  • According to the NCRB study, crimes committed against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes increased by 7.3% and 26.5%, respectively, in 2019.
  • With 11,829 cases, or 25.8% of all such crimes, Uttar Pradesh leads the country in the number of crimes against SCs. Rajasthan comes in second place with 6,794 cases, or 14.8% of all cases, followed by Bihar (14.2%) and Madhya Pradesh (11.5%).
  • Conviction rate: In the ten years before to 2018, the average conviction rate for atrocities committed against Dalits and Adivasis under the Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA Act) stayed at 25.2% and 22.8%, respectively. This is in accordance with the National Dalit Movement for Justice’s status report on the PoA Act’s implementation (NDMJ).

What further has to be done?

  • Case Registration: Standard Operating Procedures (SoP) should be created to ensure that there is no doubt or ambiguity among the investigators regarding the best course of action.
  • Judges, attorneys, and police need training and capacity building for these kinds of scenarios.
  • Prosecution: Lawyers who successfully bring up important cases should be compensated.
  • To find out what sanctions outside incarceration can stop individuals or groups from committing crimes in the future, research is required.

Moving ahead:

  • Laws are simply one of the necessary stages to achieving our constitution’s goal of making India a nation where everyone has equal rights, opportunities, and access to justice, as shown in the numbers above.
  • The educational and economic conditions of disadvantaged groups like SCs and STs in India must be improved, and nationwide educational reforms must be implemented, in order to address the root causes of prejudice.

Source The Hindu