Pune: The SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, commonly known as the Atrocity Act, has been the bone of contention many times causing powerful castes to be irked by it. The primary allegations causing this discontent being the alleged 'misuse' of the act to blackmail upper caste persons and the low conviction rates which are taken as a reflection of fake cases.
Activists and lawyers say that the Supreme Court is making a blanket judgement without sufficient data.
In the judgement given by the court, the court has taken up the anticipatory bail issue on its own. There was no request made in the matter that was brought before the court. A 5-member SC bench has already clarified in the past that the terms of the Atrocity Act are not in violation of fundamental rights granted by the constitution. The act was passed by the Parliament following due procedure and has the signature of the then President, ratifying it. The act was passed with the purpose of providing 'Special Protection to the classes who have been oppressed for centuries'. If the courts think that the act is being misused, they should substantiate with data. The judiciary is supposed to interpret the law. Creating or changing the law is the function of the parliament. The SC should have stayed out of making a blanket statement when there was no demand made for any guidelines regarding misuse.
- Priyadarshi Telang, Lawyer and activist, Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Andolan
Every law in this country can be misused and is often misused. However, invariably, it is the laws which are made to protect the interest of the vulnerable sections of the society, which draw the criticism of misuse. To provide 'misuse' as a reason to dilute a stringent law made for the protection of a socially and economically backward community is disappointing, to say the least, particularly, since there isn't even any strong data on record to suggest such alleged misuse.
- Saranga Ugalmugle, lawyer, Bombay High Court
The cases which are already filed but lack evidence or have tampered evidence, are put under a 'quash' petition with the High Court. The HC, instead of putting the cases back to lower courts for reinvestigation, quash the cases completely and this procedural lacuna is used to show low numbers of conviction under the act. Many a times, police themselves dismiss an FIR under the pretence of lack of evidence. This does not mean that the cases are fake. This blanket judgement comes at a time when Yadavs and Jatavs and other conflicting castes are coming together ahead of an election year. This judgement will affect the potential unity of these castes and this makes us question as to why such a blanket judgement was given in a person to person case which made no demands for revisions to the law?
- Keshav Waghmare, Activist