The Supreme Court order on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act relies on a 2014 parliamentary panel report to state why it is feels necessary to include “safeguards” within the purview of the Act itself.
The order refers to a point made in the report by the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill. The December 19, 2104, report of the panel, headed by BJP MP Ramesh Bais, notes that existing laws are insufficient to deal with cases of misuse and there have to be certain deterrents in the Atrocities Act itself.
The panel had asked the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment whether registration of false cases should be considered as a punishable offence under the Act. In its written reply, the ministry held, “The object of the PoA Act is to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the SCs and the STs, to provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. It would, thus, not be in consonance with the intent of the PoA Act to provide for punishment for members of SCs and STs for registering cases falsely.” The ministry went on to state that existing sections of the IPC can be invoked in such case.
While the standing committee report does not cite any figure on the extent of misuse, the panel states, among its ‘observations and recommendations’, that it is not in agreement with the ministry’s contention “that those who are found to be misusing the provisions of the Act can be tried as per normal law of the land under the relevant sections of the IPC. The Committee are of the firm view that the PoA Act, being a special law, should be wholesome to the extent that it must contain an inbuilt provision for securing justice for those too who are falsely implicated with mala fide under it”.
Including Bais, the 30-member panel included 13 BJP MPs such as tribal affairs minister Jasvantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor, prominent Dalit leader Udit Raj, and former deputy speaker Kariya Munda. The other members were AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, five from the Congress including Mohsina Kidwai, and the rest from NCP, Shiv Sena, AIADMK, TRS, BJD, AAP, CPM, TMC, and BSP.
The report cited the example of the ‘The Sexual Harassment of women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 as an instance of how ‘the law makers have shown such perspicacity in addressing such issues/misgivings’ by inserting Clause 14 (punishment for false or malicious complaint and false evidence) within the Act itself.
The recommendation for acting against false complaints was not included by the ministry in the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2015.
The SC order of Tuesday, however, refers to the parliamentary panel report to state that “laying down safeguards to enforce constitutional guarantee under Article 21 was necessary” in view of the panel’s report so that people are protected against “arbitrary arrests or false implications”.