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Stringent punishment for atrocities on SC, ST under new Act


New Delhi : An Act which provides for stringent action against those committing atrocities against SC and ST communities or indulging in actions which are derogatory to their dignity, including social or economic boycott, will come into effect from tomorrow.

As per the the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015, actions like tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts which are derogatory to the dignity of members of SCs and STs, will now be treated as offences of atrocities.

The offences include denying access to irrigation facilities or forest rights, “garlanding with chappals”, compelling them to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or to dig graves, using or permitting manual scavenging, dedicating a SC or ST women as devadasi and abusing in caste name.

Imposing social or economic boycott, hurting a SC or ST woman by removing her garments, forcing a member of SC/ST to leave house, village or residence, acts or gestures of a sexual nature against members of SCs and STs etc.

Impeding certain activities related to voting especially vote or not vote for a particular candidate will also be considered an offence.

“Certain criminal (IPC) offences like hurt, grievous hurt, intimidation, kidnapping etc, attracting less than ten years of imprisonment, committed against members of SC/ST, will be treated as offences punishable under the PoA Act.

“Presently, only those offences listed in IPC as attracting punishment of 10 years or more and committed on members of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe are accepted as offences falling under the PoA Act,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Under the Act, Exclusive Special Courts will be established and Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors will be appointed to try the offences under the PoA Act toenable speedy and expeditious disposal of cases.

Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts will have the power to take direct cognizance of offence and as far as possible and complete trial of the case within two months, from the date of filing of the charge sheet, it said.

There is an addition of chapter on the ‘Rights of Victims and Witnesses’ in the Act. It also clearly defines the term ‘wilful negligence’ of public servants at all levels, starting from the registration of complaint, and covering aspects of dereliction of duty under this Act.

There is also an addition of presumption to the offences as in if the accused was acquainted with the victim or his family, the court will presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim unless proved otherwise.

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2015 which will replace the parent law i.e. the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was passed by the Lok Sabha on August 4 last year and by Rajya Sabha on December 21.

The Bill was given Presidential assent on December 31 last year and was notified in the Gazette of India Extraordinary on January 01, 2016.

After framing the rules for enactment, now it will be enforced by the central government with effect from tomorrow.

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