|W.P. No. 7990/2020
|Date of Filing
|Parishishtha Jaathi/Parishishtha Pangadagala Melvicharane Mattu Balavardhana Sangha Karnataka (Committee for Monitoring and Strengthening SCs/STs in Karnataka)-CMASK
|State Government of Karnataka Social Welfare Department; Karnataka State Police Department; Directorate of Civil Rights Enforcement (DCRE)
The Writ Petition No. 7990/2020 has been brought by the Petitioner – Parishista Jaathi/Parishishtha Pangadagala Melvicharane Mattu Balavardhana Sangha Karnataka (Committee for Monitoring and Strengthening SCs/STs in Karnataka – CMASK) seeking certain reliefs for the proper implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (‘PoA Act’) and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 (‘PoA Rules’). The Petitioner is a collective initiative to work on the implementation of the PoA Act.
This legislation has been enacted to prevent atrocities against SC/STs and to protect their rights. The objective of the PoA Act is to identify, prosecute, prevent, monitor and address atrocities against SC/ST persons by non-SC/ST persons. While the PoA Act is primarily a penal statute and prescribes punishments for different atrocities against SC/ST persons, it also provides for a range of measures to rehabilitate victims and witnesses, and to monitor the implementation of measures laid out in the statute. A significant part of the PoA Act is dedicated to establishing institutions to curb the menace of caste discrimination, adjudicating offences and rehabilitating victims. It provides for the establishment of Special Courts, both exclusive and designated, to enable speedy adjudication of cases and provides for the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors for every Exclusive Special Court. The PoA Act additionally outlines State obligations for victim and witness protection as well as the institution of a scheme for the welfare of SC/ST persons. However, the Act and the Rules are not being implemented in Karnataka effectively, despite the rising numbers of atrocities towards the SC/ST community in the state. The main issues raised in this Petition are the lack of implementation of the POA Act and Rules. The Petition focuses on 5 main areas of implementation of the Act:
A. Exclusive Special Courts to be Set up in More Districts
As per Section 14 of the PoA Act, the state is responsible for establishing Special Courts or Exclusive Special Courts to try cases under the Act. Exclusive Special Courts are set up for one or more districts to exclusively hear cases under the PoA Act. Karnataka has 30 districts in total, and only 8 Exclusive Special Courts have been set up in the districts of Belagavi, Vijayapura, Kalaburgi, Kolar, Mysuru, Raichur, Ramanagar and Tumakuru and in the remaining districts, the Sessions Courts have been designated as Special Courts.
B. Vigilance Committee Meetings Not Conducted
Karnataka has set up committees at the State, District, and sub-District levels in accordance with Rule 3 and 17 of the PoA Rules, but the Committees have not complied with any of the meeting requirements as mandated in the PoA Rules.
C. Investigation Not Done in Time
Rule 7(2) of the PoA Rules states that the Investigating Officer of any atrocity under the PoA Act shall complete investigation on top priority, submit a report to the jurisdictional Superintendent of Police, who shall, in turn, forward it to the Directorate General of Police or the Commissioner of Police. According to the 2016 Report, there are 321 cases where the investigation is completed and filing of charge sheet is done within 60 days while 761 cases have taken later than 60 days.
D. Precautionary Measures and Preventive Action
Section 17 of the PoA Act and Rule 3 of the PoA Rules outlines a number of precautionary measures to be taken by the State Government to prevent caste atrocities – such as conducting awareness workshops and setting up special police stations. However, no awareness programs were carried out in atrocity prone areas.
E. Periodic Survey Not Done
As per Section 21(2)(vi) of the PoA Act, the State Government has the duty to carry out a periodic survey of the implementation of the PoA Act and the Rules. The aim of this provision is to ensure that the State Government is in a position to suggest measures for better implementation of the Act. The latest report released by the State is for the year 2016.
F. Payment of Compensation to Atrocity Victims
As per Rule 12 of the POA Rules, the District Magistrate, sub-divisional Magistrate, or Executive Magistrate, as the case may be, shall make necessary administrative and other arrangements to provide relief to victims of atrocities within 7 days. the District Statistics for the year 2019-20 shows that a total of 680 FIRs have been filed, yet the FIR amount payment is only for 297 and charge-sheet payment is only 247 which is less than half of the cases.
The Petition thus prays for effective implementation of the POA Act in Karnataka by:
- Setting up of Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts for the trial of offences against SC/ST persons in districts where the rate of offences is high,
- Adhering to the minimum meeting requirements of State, District and sub-District vigilance and monitoring committees to discuss and deliberate upon issues of caste and conduct in meetings,
- Conducting investigations in a timely manner,
- Conducting periodic workshops by the Department of Social Welfare,
- Mandating periodic surveys to monitor the implementation of the Act,
- Paying timely compensation and relief to the victims.
The matter was heard and order passed on 16.09.2020. In the said order, the Hon’ble Court looked into Rule 7 of the PoA Rules, which stated that a charge sheet shall be filed within a period of sixty days. Due to charge sheet being filed only in 6451 cases out of a total of 35091 from 2015 -2019, the Court has directed the State to clarify whether the Investigating Officers have submitted explanations for the gross delay.
The Hon’ble Court also directed its attention to the pendency of cases under the Act. It directed the Registrar General to file a report on the issue of the status of the proposal to set up more Special Atrocity Courts. The Hon’ble Court also directed the Registrar General to ensure that Special Training Workshops are conducted for the Judicial Officers who are in charge of the Special Courts. The Court also directed regular training for investigating officers to tackle the issue of delay during the investigation and a larger number of acquittals.
With regard to the meetings of the District Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committees and Sub-Divisional Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committees, the Hon’ble Court has directed the State to place on record the data regarding the number of meetings as well as the minutes of the meetings at the State, District and Sub-divisional level.
The Hon’ble Court ordered the State Government to place on record compliance with regard to the provision of relief in cash or in-kind or both within 7 days to the victims of atrocity or their family members or dependants. It also directed the State Government to file data regarding the implementation of the contingency plan.
The Hon’ble Court ordered on 21.o6.21 that the age-old practice of requiring certified copies for filing appeal could be done away with, since it causes a great delay. Therefore, the State Government was directed to ensure that the process of giving opinion commences on the basis of the copies of the documents provided by the concerned Prosecutor.
The matter is posted for reporting further compliance on 13.08.21.