FOR THE FIRST time since last year’s Maratha agitation which demanded dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the Maharashtra Police has informed the state government that contrary to claims, the Act safeguarding the rights of the Dalit community has not been misused. A report with detailed statistics indicating this was recently submitted to the Home Department.
According to a senior official, the report states there is no evidence that a large number of the complaints registered under the Atrocities Act were fake. The provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) allows filing a ‘B- Summary with prosecution’, which allows registering an FIR against the complainant for lodging a false case against the accused.
“Last year’s crime data concluded that just like under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) where cases pertaining to ‘B-Summary with prosecution’ were around six per cent, the figures under the Atrocities Act for the corresponding period were also around five to six per cent, which has also been an average observed in the last couple of years. So the claims that the Act has been misused seems to be unfounded,” said a senior official from the office of the Director General of Police (DGP) who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“A report was submitted including the data from which one can infer that the concerns suggesting misuse of the special Act don’t seem to be true,” added the official. The state police has also attached data that reflects a dip in both conviction rate and filing of complaints under the special Act. According to the police, the conviction rate under the Act in 2015 and 2016 was under seven per cent. While 2,304 cases were filed under the Atrocities Act in 2015, in 2016 the number dropped to 2,149. The year 2016 saw the Maratha community agitating against the alleged misuse of the law and demanding that the state government dilute provisions of the Act.
Since the agitation, the Maharashtra Police have tried various measures to raise the conviction rate under the PoA and Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act, 1955, which has been hovering around 7 per cent for the last three years. However, between January and May this year, this figure has steadily climbed to around 8.5 per cent. “Other than sensitizing our men we have also started a slew of measures that have improved the conviction rate. Since last year, we have held over 900 awareness camps to sensitize both our men and the community on the provisions of the Acts and the remedies available. The aim is to improve it further,” said Inspector General of Police Qaiser Khalid.
Khalid is in-charge of the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) cell of the Maharashtra Police which deals with the implementation of the two Acts. “One of the biggest problems leading to acquittals is that the cases are heard after a huge time gap. The witnesses therefore tend to forget what they had told police during the investigations. In many cases, they fail to recall the incident itself. Therefore, the idea to hold moot courts was floated and some of the districts have started holding them,” said another senior police officer.
At these mock courts, policemen pose as public prosecutors, defence lawyers and judges and convene hearings. The witnesses are ‘examined’ and at the end of the hearing, they are given a ‘feedback’ on the points they need to remember while deposing before an actual court. Besides the moot court, the Social Justice and Welfare department, Law department and Maharashtra Police have managed to get five more courts across Maharashtra that are dedicatedly hearing the cases under these special Acts. “Delay in hearing of the cases is one of the reasons behind the poor conviction rate. Efforts are underway to get more courts sanctioned so that the cases are swiftly disposed of,” added the official.