SC & ST ACT, 1989 (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     15th May 2024        
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Context: The Supreme Court recently decided to scrutinize the legality of a provision within the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, requiring capital punishment if false evidence provided by a person leads to the execution of a member of the SC/ST community.

SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

  • Enactment: The government enacted the Act in 1989.
  • Aim: Furtherance of the provisions for abolition of untouchability (Article 17) and equality (Articles 14, 15) in the Constitution.
  • Offender: Any person who is not a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe and commits an offence listed in the Actagainst a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe is an offender.
  • Anticipatory Bail: Under section 18 of the act, provision for anticipatory bail is not available to the offenders.
  • Punishments: The police can arrest the offender without a warrant and start an investigation into the case without taking any orders from the court.

o The accused can be punished between six months to five years sentence and with a fine to life imprisonment or even death sentence in some cases.

  • Punishment to a public servant denying his duties to perform: Not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, he/she will be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to one year.

SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (Amendment) Act, 2015

  • Expanded Definitions: The amendment recognized more instances of "atrocities" as crimes against SCs and STs, broadening the scope of protection.
  • Wilful Negligence: The Act defined the term ‘wilful negligence’ for public servants at all levels, delineating responsibilities from the registration of complaints to preventing dereliction of duty under this Act.
  • Presumption Clause: If the accused was acquainted with the victim or the victim's family, the court would presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim unless proven otherwise, reinforcing accountability.

SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (Amendment) Act, 2018

  • Introduced Section 18A: To overturn safeguards introduced by the Supreme Court.

o According to Section 18A, under the Prevention of Atrocities Act, there is no need for a preliminary inquiry to register a First Information Report against any individual.

  • Preliminary inquiry: Not be required for registration of a FIR against any person.
  • Arrest: No approval is required under this act.
  • Anticipatory bail: It rules out for anticipatory bail for the accused.
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