States lag in setting up courts to address SC, ST grievances
States have been slacking in setting up exclusive special courts for trial of cases filed under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, a year after the amended act made it mandatory to do so, the data from social justice and empowerment ministry states.
The ministry recently informed Parliament that only 194 exclusive courts have been set up in 14 states for hearing cases registered under the PoA Act.
States such as Maharashtra and Odisha which have a pendency rate of nearly 90% and 80% have set up only three special courts so far; while Madhya Pradesh has 43, Rajasthan 25 and Gujarat 26 such courts.
Following slow disposal of cases of abuse and atrocity against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the PoA act was amended in 2016, making it mandatory for states to set up exclusive courts and appoint special public prosecutors to try the offences under this act.
Pan India figures show that from 84.1% pendency rate in 2013 the figure has climbed to 87.3% in 2015.
In Himachal Pradesh for instance, nine cases ended in conviction in 2013 and 2014, while the pending cases stand at 286 and 246 for these years, while only two reached conclusion in 2015.
Similarly, in Maharashtra where 2,064 cases were registered under the act in conjunction with the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 2013, only 1,077 cases ended in conviction. At the end of 2015, the number of pending cases in the state stood at 9,287 which is 90.3% pendency rate.
Former chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes PL Punia told Hindustan Times that the high pendency rate is an indication that the cases are not being paid attention to and the special courts too are not functioning properly.
“Despite the orders that these special courts will only hear cases filed under the PoA Act, there are trials of other cases conducted in most of these exclusive courts. The special prosecutors are not bothered and the cases filed under this Act are as neglected as the victims,” he said.
On Saturday, Union minister Thawar Chand Gehlot told Hindustan Times that the act has been given more teeth to convict those committing atrocities against people from the SC and ST categories, but the slow rate of disposal of cases is a “cause for worry”.
He said the “strengthened act” has included more crimes and atrocities, which were not considered an offence earlier; and steps have been taken to ensure there is speedy trial.
As per the amended act, the special courts have been authorised to take cognisance of offence and as far as possible, complete trials within two months, from the date of filing of the chargesheet.