WHILE various political groups have sought a review of The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act claiming that provisions of the law are being misused against members of the upper castes, numbers released by the state tell a different story. The total number of cases filed in Maharashtra exclusively under the Prevention of Atrocities Act have actually fallen in the last five years, from 319 in 2010 to 290 in 2015.
In 2005, nearly 30 per cent of all crimes committed against Dalits were booked under the Atrocities Act. That number has complaints. We want to find out if there has been burking on the part of the police officers or ignorance of law among the members of these communities which have led to such poor numbers,” Quaiser Khalid, Special Inspector General of Police, Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) of the Maharashtra Police, told The Indian Express. PCR is a special cell of the Maharashtra Police which oversees the implementation of PCR Act and SC ST (POA) Act in the state.
Other than the survey, the Maharashtra Police along with the Social Welfare Department has also started a sensitisation drive both for police officers across the state and locals. The drive aims to ensure that the police don’t treat a complaint that otherwise merits registration of an FIR under the two Acts as a Non-Cognisable (NC) Offence, which is one of the reasons suspected behind poor registration of complaints.
Going by the data obtained by The Indian Express procured through an appeal filed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, the state has seen a rise in complaints filed under the POA and PCR from 1,700 to 1,800 registered in 2010 to 2,100 to 2,300 complaints being registered in the last few years, However, that is just one per cent of the total complaints registered in the state. In contrast, states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have more First Information Reports or FIRs registered under the two Acts than those registered in Maharashtra.
The data also reveals a pattern in these complaints: While certain pockets of Maharashtra have always witnessed a high number of complaints being registered under the two Acts, this year the maximum complaints have been registered in Ahmednagar and Marathwada’s Parbhani district.
“Other than discarding the complaints as non-cognisable, the other trend that we found was that in over 60 per cent of the cases, the provisions of these two Acts have been added just because the complainant belongs to SC or ST. Of these, most of the cases pertain to land disputes. With the cases under POA and PCR being less than 40 per cent, the study undertaken by us will help us find out the problem areas, so that we fix those,” another official attached to the office of the Director General of Police office told The Indian Express.
“In the last two years, we have seen a rise in registration of complaints in Parbhani area. While in the past too Parabhani saw many plaints being registered under the two Acts, the rise in the numbers is also a part of the study that is being undertaken by us,” said the official.
According to data, between 2013 and 2015, the maximum number of complaints have been registered in Vidharbha’s Yavatamal district.
While in 2013, 153 complaints under the two Acts were registered, 147 and 137 complaints have been registered in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Ahmednagar is next, with 111 cases registered in 2013, and 115 and 116 registered in 2014 and 2015.
However this year, according to the figures available with The Indian Express, till July 2016, Ahmednagar has the maximum complaints registered under the two Acts. While 82 complaints have been registered at Ahmednagar, Marathwada’s Parbhani area saw the second most number of plaints with 73 complaints registered till July. Yavatmal has the third largest complaints with 72 FIRs registered till July this year.
“With the maximum number of complaints being registered in Yavatwal and Ahmednagar, we have started our sensitisation drive in these districts. The drive is also being carried out in Amravati. The purpose is to educate and sensitise the policemen so that they can assist the members of the SC, ST community to lodged a complaint whenever they approach the police station. On the other hand, we also want the community members to be aware of their rights and aim to educate them on the provisions of the Act and the various legal remedies available to them so that their rights or freedom is not infringed,” said Khalid.