In March 2014, the then UPA government proposed the amendments to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, 1989. The amendments to the Act includes an addition of new offences, to ensure speedy justice to the rape victims. The NDA government has now got the amendments passed in both the houses of parliament.
Subsequent to the amendments, certain changes became necessary to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995. The modified Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Rules 2016 were notified by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on 14 April, the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar.
This has been done to speed up the process of dispensation of justice to victims of atrocities and liberalize and expedite access to relief for community members who have been victims of such atrocities. The new rules have been framed in such as manner so as to give effect to the amended provisions of completion of investigation, and charge sheet will also be filed within 60 days in the court.
The following major changes have been made now via the amendment :
- Rationalization of the phasing of relief amounts payment to victims for various offences of atrocities. The rules also specify relief amount for various offences of atrocities.
- Not linking payment of any part of relief amount with the requirement of the medical examination for non-invasive kind of offences against women like sexual harassment, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty, to disrobe, voyeurism, stalking etc.
- Provision of relief for offences of rape and gang rape.
- Increase in the existing quantum of relief amount depending upon the nature of the offence, while linking it with the Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers.
Women belonging to SCs/STs who are victims of rape and gang rape will now get relief of Rs. 75,000 and Rs. 7,50,000 to between Rs. 85,000 and Rs. 8, 25,000, depending on the nature of the offence, while linking it with the Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers for the month of January 2016.
A separate provision has been introduced for the first time, under which female victims of rape and gang rape belonging to SCs/STs will get relief of up to Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8.25 lakh, and those suffering other atrocities of grievous nature, will get relief on conclusion of trial even if it does not end in conviction.
It also provides provision of admissible relief in cash or in kind or both within seven days to the victims of atrocity, their family members and dependents, and rationalization of the phasing of payment of relief amount to victims for various offences of atrocities.
As per the press release of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the rules are an important step forward in our journey towards achieving Babasaheb Ambedkar’s vision of a more equal and just society. The amendments in the existing act have made stronger provisions for the protection of SCs and STs from atrocities against them.
Crimes against the SCs and STs have been on the rise for past few years. A total of 39408 crimes against SCs were reported in the year 2013 while the number rose up to 47064 in 2014. There has been a demand to amend the existing PoA act to include more offences and to ensure relief & speedy justice to the victims. Moreover, a new chapter on the ‘Rights of Victims and Witnesses’ has also been added to the act.