SC/ST Act dilution: Opposition MPs ask President to prevent “national disaster”

Opposition leaders on Wednesday asked President Ram Nath Kovind to intervene and prevent a “national disaster”, citing increased insecurity among Dalits after dilution of provisions of SC/ST (PoA) Act

NH Photo by Vishwadeepak
NH Photo by Vishwadeepak
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Vishwadeepak

Leaders of several Opposition parties, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Mishra and DMK leader Kanimozhi, on Wednesday asked President Ram Nath Kovind to intervene in face of a possible “national disaster”. They said perpetrators of discrimination and violence were emboldened and insecurity was rising among Dalits after the recent Supreme Court judgment diluting provisions of arrest under the Scheduled Castes & Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The Supreme Court order had made prior sanction mandatory in cases of arrest under the provisions of the Act and allowed anticipatory bail to be granted in such offences.

The judgment, Opposition leaders said, comes at a time when atrocities were being committed daily against Dalits in every corner of the country. In a memorandum to President Kovind, they cited recent cases of barbaric violence against Dalits, including crushing of three Dalits under a tractor due to a land dispute in Rajasthan, stripping of a Dalit family by police in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh for insisting an FIR be registered after their two-wheeler was stolen; and beating up of a Dalit groom in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh because he took a decorated car to his wedding.

The Opposition leaders alleged that the situation of violence against Dalits had worsened in the last 3-4 years under the Narendra Modi government. They said it was “surprising that instead of fighting for the rights of Dalits, as claimed by the Union government, at the time of hearing of the case before the Hon’ble Supreme court in which the aforesaid judgement was pronounced, the centre submitted that anticipatory bail could be allowed in case of atrocities against Dalits, if no prima facie case was made out”. They alleged this showed the “double-faced character” of the Modi government, which presents one face inside courts and another outside, before the public and media.

They also cited an instance where Dalits in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh were given soap and shampoo by the local administration to clean themselves ahead of a visit by BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The Opposition said it feared that the increase in cases of violence, coupled with the recent judgement, would further embolden perpetrators and atrocities against Dalits will rise even further, if immediate steps were not taken by the Modi government. They sought the President’s “immediate intervention” in this regard.

Main points in the Opposition memorandum to President Kovind

  • Many atrocities are being faced by Dalits across the country and they continue to face discrimination which is violative of their fundamental right to equality guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • Citing the latest available National Crime Records Bureau figures, they said a crime is committed against Dalits every 15 minutes in India and 6 Dalit women are raped every day.
  • The number of cases registered of atrocities against Dalits are only a fraction of actual crimes, as many go unreported due to non-cooperation at police stations, shame and social stigma, fear of retaliation, etc
  • During the last decade, the number of atrocities against Dalits was highest in 2014 at 47,064 cases. As per 2016 NCRB figures, Uttar Pradesh accounts for 17% of the crimes against 20% of India’s Dalit population that it houses, while Rajasthan with 6% of India’s Dalit population, reported 17% of crimes against them. In Bihar, 2 out of every 5 crimes committed are against Dalits.
  • The memorandum cites 2016 NCRB figures to show “abysmally poor” conviction rates in crimes against Dalits. In Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, the memorandum said, conviction rates are as low as 3.2%, in Odisha 3.3.%, in Telangana 6.5% and in Tamil Nadu 7.7.%. The Supreme Court judgment itself points to poor conviction rates as per NCRB records, the memorandum said. This, they said, indicates failure of law enforcing agencies and not necessarily that cases were false and fabricated.

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