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Cop-out: Courts also to blame for acquittals

The Gujarat Police has said that they should not be held solely responsible for the high rate of acquittal in cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in the state.

Ahmedabad |
May 4, 2009 5:01:57 am

As a petition alleging state govt’s inaction in Atrocity Act cases reaches SC,addl ADG says cops are not the only ones to take flak

The Gujarat Police has said that they should not be held solely responsible for the high rate of acquittal in cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in the state.

It has said that the courts should also be held responsible for acquittals in such cases. A hearing is scheduled in the Supreme Court on Monday following a Public Interest Litigation.

This comes following a survey of court trials of cases registered under the provisions of the Atrocity Act in 18 districts of Gujarat by the Council for Social Justice (CSJ). The survey revealed that in most cases,acquittals took place as unauthorised police officers had conducted the investigations.

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According to the provisions of the Atrocity Act and its Rules,no officer below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) can investigate Atrocity cases. But the rule was violated in several cases and lower rank officers had done the investigations.

Following this,the courts had acquitted the accused.

CSJ secretary Valjibhai Patel had termed these unauthorised investigations ‘wilful negligence’ by the police.

He had demanded legal action against all lower rank officers who conducted such unauthorised investigations as also against their superiors,under Section 4 of the Act,which states that any public servant who neglects his duties required to be performed by him under the Act shall be punishable with imprisonment up to one year.

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In 2004,Patel moved the High Court and filed a PIL challenging the inaction of the state government for non-implementation of the Atrocity Act.

The division bench of Gujarat High Court comprising Chief Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice Akil Qureshi had disposed of the PIL in February 2009,observing that the complaints by the petitioner demanded serious attention of the Chief Secretary. It said the Chief Secretary will bestow attention to the grievance of the petitioner.

Patel later filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court of India against the Gujarat High Court order.

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He demanded that directions be issued to the state government for the proper implementation of the Act in Gujarat.

In the SLP,which is scheduled to be heard on Monday,Patel had included a letter by the then Additional Director General of Police,SC/ST Cell,Chitranjan Singh.

In the letter dated April 27,2005,addressed to the Chief Secretary of Home Department,Singh said,“…on account of lack of information,the practice of carrying out investigation of the offences under the said Act by the incompetent officers continued even after 1995…when the chargesheets of unauthorised investigations after 1995 were received by courts. Had the courts,at relevant stage,returned the case papers for reinvestigation by competent officers under Section 173 (8) of Criminal Procedure Code,the mistakes committed by the police could have been rectified.”

The letter further said: “…the courts despite being well versed with the law,conducted trials knowing very well that the investigations were unauthorised and had made comments on the unauthorised investigations. It is a matter of debate as to whether such an action on the part of the courts can be covered under Section 4? ”

Espousing the views put in the letter,Additional Director General of Police,in-charge,SC/ST Cell,Sudhir Sinha said: “Police officers,most of whom were unaware about the legal position that only DySP could investigate such cases,carried out the investigations. Surprisingly,the entire trial of the cases was conducted before the judicial officials,well versed with law,who noted the lacuna and yet acquitted the accused. The error was apparent on the face of the courts.”

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On his part,Patel calls the police opinion as just passing the blame to the courts to cover up the wilful negligence of many of its officers.

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First published on: 04-05-2009 at 05:01:57 am

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