The use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (“UAPA”) in the last few years needs critical analysis, especially in light of the increasing use of the UAPA. What is surprising is that while the UAPA was enacted in 1967, its constitutionality has never been challenged in any of the High Courts or the Supreme Court. The UAPA has had several amendments, and the most recent amendments being made in 2019 amending Section 35. This amendment allows the Government to even categorize individuals involved in terrorism and not just organizations. It is only the 2019 amendments that have been recently challenged in the Supreme Court in two recent petitions.
India’s ballooning under-trial population is a serious challenge to the effectiveness and legitimacy of the criminal justice system. The most recent, yet dated Prison Statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2018 pegs India’s under-trial prison population at around 67 % or two-thirds of the total prison population. Academic and policy literature on prisons and under-trial detention have conventionally focused on a doctrinal analysis of provisions on bail or on the conditions of detention, relying primarily on data from prisons and police stations, compiled by the NCRB. However, the crucial point of entry of a person into the prison system at first production in the courts after arrest has received no research attention.
Recently, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released the Crime in India Reports for 2017 and 2018 in quick succession, after drawing criticism for the inordinate delay in releasing these statistics. These reports are the primary source of data to track the incidence and reporting of crimes in India and the performance of the police and courts in investigating and adjudicating cases, including those related to crimes against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
The recent gruesome report of the beheading of a minor SC girl in Tamil Nadu for rejecting the advances of an upper caste male once again throws the issue of caste discrimination into sharp focus. Women from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and violence due to the intersection caste and gender. Despite this, we note that crimes against SC and ST women are viewed as either caste based crimes or sex based crimes. Further, while data on caste based crimes is readily available in the NCRB reports, which we have analysed in our previous posts I, II and III, disaggregated data on crimes against women is not presented.
In this post, we explore how courts have performed in respect of crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. We will compare the data from Andhra Pradesh (AP), Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu (TN) with the national figures for 2016.
Having noted that the number of reported crimes against SCs and STs is high, the next stage of the criminal justice process that demands study is the response of the investigating agencies. While a few independent reports have surveyed the response of the police to crimes against SCs and STs, NCRB reports remain the only comprehensive source of such data at the national and state level.
On 21 May 2018, The Wire reported the death of a Dalit man in Gujarat who was allegedly beaten to death when he protested the fact that his wife was asked to clean filth, free of charge. This reporting comes only two months after the decision of Subhash Kashinath Mahajan, where the Supreme Court diluted some of the protections under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (‘Act’). The incident is a striking example of the pervasiveness of caste bias and the prevalence of atrocities in India.