People from Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities account for nearly 19 per cent of Maharashtra’s population, yet only 1 per cent of all FIRs registered by the police across the state are on complaints from people of these groups.
Of these, less than 40 per cent of cases are registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA) and Protection of Civil Right (PCR) Act — a fact that has Maharashtra Police slightly worried. These, the state police feels, are abysmally low numbers. And they will now be analysed.
“The exercise has been undertaken to find out the reason behind such low number of complaints (from people from SC and ST communities),” Quaiser Khalid, Special IGP, Protection of Civil Right (PCR), Maharashtra Police, told The Indian Express.
The police want to find out whether these “poor numbers” are a result of lack of sensitisation among police officials to register complaints from people from these marginalised sections or “ignorance of law among the members of these communities”, Khalid said.
The PCR cell of Maharashtra Police oversees implementation of the PCR Act and SC/ST Act in the state.
Besides undertaking the survey, Maharashtra Police and the Social Welfare Department have started a sensitisation drive — for both police officials and people from SC/ST communities across the state. The drive aims to ensure that police officials do not treat a complaint, which otherwise merits registration of an FIR under these two Acts, as a non-cognizable (NC) offence, which is one of the reasons suspected for poor registration of complaints.
The police cannot arrest, or even probe, an NC offence without court’s order.
According to data procured by The Indian Express through an appeal filed under RTI Act, Maharashtra has seen a rise in complaints filed under POA and PCR Acts from 1,700-1,800 in 2010 to an average of 2,100-2,300 each year in the last few years. In sharp contrast, states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which also have a sizeable share of Dalit and ST population, show more FIRs registered under these two Acts every year.
According to an official attached to the DGP office, besides the fact that many complaints are “discarded” as non-cognizable offence, in nearly six out of 10 cases the provisions of these two Acts have been added “just because the complainant belongs to SC or ST (communities)”. The official said, “Most of these cases pertain to land disputes… the study will help us find the problem areas and thus fix them.”
With most FIRs under provisions of these two Acts registered in Yavatwal and Ahmednagar, the police have began a sensitisation drive in these two districts, Special I-G (PCR) Khalid said.
“The drive is also being carried out in Amravati…to educate and sensitise policemen so that they can assist members of SC and ST communities to lodge a complaint whenever they approach police. Similarly, we want members of these communities to be aware of their rights and educate them on the provisions of these Acts and legal remedies available to them,” Khalid said.