By Counterview Desk
A recent Study Report, sponsored by the Planning Commission of India, based on spot-survey of Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Orissa, and conducted by the Socio-Economic and Educational Development Society (SEEDS), New Delhi, has suggested that nearly 90 per cent of the crimes committed against the scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) population remain pending in courts, while the conviction rate is a mere 10 per cent. The study seeks to understand the crimes against SC and ST population with a special reference to implementation of the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act, 1955 and the Prevention of Atrocities (POA) Act, 1989 in these states. Finding Gujarat as one of the “high incident” states, where high number of cases is registered, along with Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, the regrets “In Gujarat most of these cases are brought forward and are pending in courts.”
The evaluation study was conducted with the aim to:
• find out the reasons for the various types of crimes being committed against SCs and STs and in particular to PCR Act, 1955 and POA Act, 1989.
• find out whether the various provisions of the Acts and rules are being followed by the State machinery.
• find out whether the cases are being properly reported, processed and represented by the implementing and administering agencies. The reasons for the delays in the prosecution and conviction.
• find whether the funds allocated under the CSS scheme of the implementation of PCR Act, 1955 and POA Act, 1989 are adequate, being utilized properly and the associated problems.
• find what are the direct and indirect methods of violations of crimes being committed against the SCs and STs and the socio-economic associated problems of the affected families.
• find whether State and District level monitoring and vigilance Committees have been constituted and functioning effectively and compensation being provided timely.
• find what are the measures which need to be taken to curtail the prevalence and occurrence of crimes against SCs and STs.
The study says, “The absence of witnesses at the hearing causes serious problems in case processing. The major reason for absence of witnesses is the nonpayment of travelling allowance and maintenance expenses on the day of hearing. While some courts do not pay the witnesses travelling allowance and maintenance expenses, few other courts ask the witnesses to collect their travelling allowance from the office of the collector. The failure on the part of the court to provide for the expenses of witnesses who attend the court discourages the witnesses to appear before the judge for cross examination as seen in the states of Orissa, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh states.”
Coming to Gujarat, the study says, it has “maximum number of abusive cases under atrocity” having “approximately 5 per cent of conviction rate”. It adds, “The northern part of the state has highest number of atrocity cases.” Apart from other reasons, the study believes, one reason why there is considerable delay in investigation in SC and ST cases is because of the rule that “the victims have to produce original caste certificate at the time of charge sheet”. It complains, “Due to this, the victims face problems in the police station.” The delay takes place despite the fact that the “district vigilance committee has been set up separately at district level under the chairmanship of the district collector for reviewing cases of atrocities on SC and ST”, and “taluka level committee has been set up under the Chairmanship of mamlatdar of concerned talukas.”
Further, it points out, “The Government of Gujarat has specified sessions courts as special courts in each district with effect from January 30, 1990 under Section-14 of the POA Act.” Then, “a special cell has been set-up at the directorate of scheduled caste welfare, Gujarat State, Gandhinagar.” It adds, “Social education camps at the block level and workshops at the district level, seminars at the state Level are organized every year. At regional level, three vigilance squads headed by vigilance officer have been set-up at Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot. Twenty-five awareness centres, one each in every district, have been started.”
Other steps with regard to SCs, according to the study, include eleven districts — Mehsana, Ahmadabad Rural, Junagadh, Kutch, Banaskantha, Kheda, Amreli, Rajkot Rural, Surendranagar, Vadodara Rural and Bharuch — having been declared as sensitive vide a home department circular dated February 11, 1981. Then, there is a state level SC/ST protection cell under the additional director general of police. The study states, “The analysis of the data provided by the state government indicates that there is no proper format for the recording of data in the state, the number of cases under POA Act, 1989 are more in number compared to cases under PCR Act, 1955. Besides, the number of ST cases is low compared to SC cases.”
While the study regrets that there are no mobile courts have been sanctioned in Gujarat, it adds, relief and rehabilitation measures are taken. Also, the state government has constituted state level vigilance and monitoring committee since June 30, 2010, which includes the principal secretary, social justice and empowerment department, four principal secretaries from various departments, additional DGP, heads of SC corporation and Safai Kamdar board, director of the forensic science laboratory, director of SC welfare, and three vigilance officers. Filing of report is being done quarterly from State to Centre. Then, there are 11 NGOs working in the state for awareness generation.
Case study of Ahmedabad and Mehsana districts
Making case study of Ahmedabad and Mehsana to find out how the two Acts are being implemented, the study says, “The number of acquitted cases were very few indicating that there are large number of cases pending disposal and investigations.” This is particularly sad, as most victims are economically vulnerable. In fact, the primary data collected by the study indicate that out of the 241 victims’ families, the land ownership is very small — 38% in Mehsana district and 52% in Ahmedabad district.
“Of the surveyed families, more than 50% of them in Mehsana and Ahmadabad have pucca houses and only a few have semi pucca houses. The source of drinking water supply is about 82% of the families in Mehasana had community hand pumps, whereas in Ahmadabad district about 84% had both government supply and community hand pumps. About 92% of the victim families had electric supply in Mehasana district whereas 90% in Ahmedabad district victim families had electric supply. The socio-economic data indicate that, 48% of the victims’ families are agriculture wage labourers, and 10% are based in cultivation for their occupation in Mehasana district. In Ahmadabad district, about 12% are agricultural labourers, but 32% are in agriculture related activities and 12% are salaried class, 16% own the petty shops”, the study says.
As for the nature of crimes, the study finds that “34% of the cases were individual based and 76% were family level in Mehsana district, whereas in Ahmadabad district, 36% of the cases were individual based and 64% were of family based ones. Of the types of cases, 6% cases were of murder, 14% of rape and 80% of various others types. On the whole most of the cases in both the districts are of insult and intimidating, house burning, grievous injury types (78%) as is also reflected in the state and district level data”.
“The victims indicated that, about 19% of the cases are at individual level and 81% of the cases are taking due to community in both the districts, though in Mehsana district, community level crimes were reported to be low. More than 50% of the cases in Mehsana and 50% of the cases in Ahmadabad district took place in public places, 26% at the road side and half to these cases happened in the neighbourhood. About 10% of the cases in Mehsana were reported at the agriculture related cases and in the agriculture field. Nearly 92% of the cases have been reported by the victims surveyed and all the reported cases have been registered by the police authorities”, the study says.
Further, “About 50% of the cases in Mehasana have been registered within one month and 70% of the cases in Ahmadabad reported that, it took month for registering the case with the authorities. About 71% of the victims in Mehsana and 36% in Ahmadabad district have reported that, their cases are pending either with police stations or in the courts for more than six months to a year for want of various reasons like getting trial date, proper witness and police action etc.”
The study says, “In case of where the cases have been settled, all the victims/beneficiaries indicated that, they have got the monetary compensation and 26% of the victims in Mehsana and 28% in Ahmadabad district got the travelling and other miscellaneous benefits for attending the police station and courts. About 71% of victims in Mehasana and 57% in Ahmadabad district reported that, their cases pending due to lack of cooperation from police authorities, due to distance of police station and courts (22%). About 43% of the victim’s families informed that, DSP level of police authorities visited the place of crime for enquiry and in the rest of the case lower level of authorities visited the place.”
It adds, “About 14% in Mehsana and Ahmadabad districts also informed that, there is coercion from the respondents and authorities not to press to continue with the cases. About 58% of the victims are aware of the details of the PCR Act, 1955 and 1/3rd are aware of the PoA Act, 1989 in both the districts and this percentage is higher in Ahmadabad district than in Mehsana. Only 16% of the victim families indicated that, they are availing some or other government schemes like NRGEA, Pre and Post Metric scholarship to their children, housing subsidy, etc.”