Quite Fairly Unfair!

“True freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the rights of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others.”

-Jonathan Sacks

With the passing of the Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 in the Rajya Sabha, one thing which is crystal clear is that the politics of this nation is deeply rotten and plagued. It is a remarkable example of how the dirty politics of votebank can strong arm even the highest pedestal of justice. This 69th year of the Republic of India is witnessing this dark era where the very spirit of our constitution is falling into the shackles of dark and dirty politics.

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data reveals that under the SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989, while the chargesheeting rate is 77 percent, the conviction rate was only 15.4 percent.  The number of cases found to be “true but (with) insufficient evidence” were 2,150. 5,347 cases were recorded to be “false”, and 869 cases were said to be “mistake of fact”.

This data clearly depicts the extent to which this law is being misused in our nation.

In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court, the monument of faith of every citizen, held that a preliminary enquiry shall be conducted by a Deputy Superintendent of Police to find out whether allegations make out a case under The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 before registering a First Information Report relating to commission of an offence and the approval of an appropriate authority shall be obtained before arrest of any person in connection with such offence.

Citing the “abuse of law” under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, the honorable bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, on 20 March, said the guidelines have been issued because the law is being often misused to “blackmail” innocent public servants and private individuals to wreak personal vengeance or serve vested interests.

Innocent citizens are termed accused, which is not intended by the legislature. The legislature never intended to use the Atrocities Act as an instrument to blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance.

SC judgment

The apex court stated that false complaints with the object of implicating innocent people have often been filed to promote caste hatred and “perpetuate casteism”.

It is necessary to express concern that working of the Atrocities Act should not result in perpetuating casteism which can have an adverse impact on integration of the society and the constitutional values,” the bench observed.

This judgement lead to an outrage among the SC/ST community and a lot of political parties grabbed this opportunity to achieve their agendas/motives of coming into the good books of the SC/ST community with sole motive of securing votes in the elections to come. Dalit protests across the country turned violent killing nine people on 2nd April. Protesters clashed with police in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha – states where the routine life got paralysed to a certain degree in the thick of incidents of violence, arson and vandalism of public property. Some even went to the extent of showing great disrespect and derision towards the holy deities thus hurting the religious sentiments of others.

As of now, the government has decided to overturn the Supreme Court’s judgementby passing the Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018. As per this amendment

2. After section 18 of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Act, 1989, the following section shall be inserted, namely:—
“18A. (1) For the purposes of this Act,—
(a) preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First
Information Report against any person; or
(b) the investigating officer shall not require approval for the arrest, if
necessary, of any person,
against whom an accusation of having committed an offence under this Act has been
made and no procedure other than that provided under this Act or the Code shall
(2) The provisions of section 438 of the Code shall not apply to a case under this
Act, notwithstanding any judgment or order or direction of any Court.”.

The stigma of being arrested by police can scar the life of any innocent law abiding citizen of this nation. Even if a person is later proved innocent in court; but the very event of getting arrested in the first place leaves a deep psychological impact and wounds the dignity and self respect of any law abiding individual. What this amendment is lacking is a provision for a stringent penal action of civil as well as criminal nature against those who are found to be guilty of filing false, frivolous and concocted complaints with oblique/malicious motives.

We as aware and responsible citizens of this nation should now ask ourselves

Where has the sanctity of power gone? What happened to the principles of separation of powers? Can the dirty vote bank politics at any instance belittle the authority of the highest institution of justice in this country? Will the votebank politics now decide the modus operandi of serving justice?…

– Tushar Kaushik

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