The suffering that Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe have faced from ancient times is undeniably humongous. Though the passing of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act is itself an achievement for backward classes but the major thrust remains on its effective implementation. Through this blog, we will analyse about coherent reasons for this legislation. Apart from it, this article will deal with dilution of the act and the status quo.
“The taste of anything can be changed. But poison cannot be changed into nectar.”Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
The suffering that Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe have faced from ancient times is undeniably humongous. We all know that their sufferings cannot be restituted, so in order to safeguard their rights and position in society, our constitutional makers tried to give various safeguards to them.
The part III of the Indian Constitution which talks about the fundamental rights, that were given to empower people from all backgrounds without any discrimination failed because of political corruption prevailing in our country that has become like a termite now. Moreover, political leaders in order to build strong caste vote bank try to influence the politics in a manner so that they can garner support for elections by giving them hopes for making laws in their favour. Despite their efforts, we see that tentacles of our caste system have spread across all parts of the country.
Although the constitution of India grants equality to all people without any discrimination under Article 14 of constitution, but the ground reality is not the same. Though the passing of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act is in itself an achievement for backward classes but its effective implementation is still an issue. Over the years, we have seen that there is hardly any change in the way lower caste people are treated.
The answer to this question lies in the analysis of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act and the problems faced by these people till date. So, in order to move to a convalescent society, we need to first study why is there a need to come up with such legislation when we are progressing forward in a direction to become a developed country.
- Honour Killing – There are several instances of killing of youngsters by their family members who try to marry outside their caste. The main reason that families resort to honour killing in India is to protect the honour of their family which can be tarnished if their children marry outside their caste. The problem arises from the fact that Indian society has been divided into various castes from ancient times and marrying, working etc., out of caste was considered evil by people. Especially in backward areas, where there is still caste discrimination, we can find honour killings on a large scale.
- Social Boycott – Nothing is more quandary than being ostracised by your society. In India, this ostracization is prevalent at wide-scale despite the fact we are moving into a mechanised and tech-savvy world. The Khap panchayats in India acts as a source for this social boycott. The decision of panchayat has direct consequences on the family as it leads to psychological stress, physical problem to access various things, stigmatisation attached with the boycott etc.
- Caste Clashes – Discrimination on the basis of caste has occurred in various forms in India which have resulted in a lot of clashes among different caste groups. But, the case of Indira Sawhney v. Union of India resulted in providing reservation to the OBC’s as well as, making them turn strides in their favour. This case led to a lot of uproar in the country as general class felt that it was against the principle of equality and justice. The recent Bhima-Koregaon violence in Maharashtra was a clear example of hostility against the Dalits, and it implicates that Dalits are the vulnerable lot and the most affected.
- Discrimination in Universities – The suicide of Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad 2016 was a shock to the whole country. It caused a lot of anguish as he was a Dalit who was part of Dr. Ambedkar student association and was fighting for his rights against the system. This incident is evidence of the fact that we are still bounded by shackles of our caste system who despite being given the freedom and other privileges by the constitution are not treated as equals in our society.
Dilution of the Act
In the case of Dr Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra, the Hon’ble court in order to widen the scope of the act and to avoid false implication of an innocent person mentioned about the following three measures. Their primary objective was to prevent noting any misuse of the act. The three measures are as follows:
- The bar relating to the grant of anticipatory bail to any accused under section 438 of code of criminal procedure, 1973.
- The investigating officer must enquire or investigate the matter before any kind of the arrest
- For any registration of a FIR, there has to be a preliminary enquiry before any filling and admissibility of FIR.
After the judgement of the Supreme Court, there was a lot of uproar and protest in the country as it clearly led to the dilution of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe act, 1989. The main intent behind the legislation was to protect Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and give them speedy redressal measures. In order to control the situation and provide justice to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe community parliament amended the act by inserting section 18A overpowering the three measures issued by the Supreme Court.
Subsequently, In the case of Prathvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India, there was a review petition filed by the government on 1st October 2019 and the Supreme Court upheld the validity of section 18(A) of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act.
We have several constitutional provisions that address the concerns of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe community. Article 17 (abolition of untouchability), Article 46 (economic and educational wellness of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe and other weaker sections), Article 338 (National Commission for Scheduled Caste), Article 338-A (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes) are some of the provisions for their protection.
Despite these provisions in the constitution, the violence and discrimination faced by these people have not ameliorated. We need to aware these people of their rights and tell them they have recourse to law if they felt they are being discriminated. We need to empower them by making them access all the benefits that are provided by central or state government.
Moreover, considering the ground reality of the issue, we see that the actual numbers on non-conviction rates against the offenders are far more worrying. As per the National Human Rights Commission Report on Atrocities against Scheduled Castes, the major findings are very saddening because most of the cases are either pending in courts or other are closed after investigation after trial. Apart from it, it is the dismissal reality that only a few cases result in a conviction.
The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Amendment Act, 2015 introduced by the government has definitely made some positive changes in this regard. It firstly widened the ambit of term offence under this act by including several other acts like abusing by caste name in public, garlanding with shoes and other things, forcing them to do certain work, threatening them with a social boycott etc., under section 3.
In today’s scenario, the offences especially sexual exploitation against women are gradually increasing, but the most vulnerable section in this is the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe women. So, through this amendment, sexual exploitation of women is considered as an offence under section 3. Laws are made even more strict with passing time in regard to the treatment of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. Even calling a person by the caste-name ‘Chamar’ with the intention of insulting or intimidating or humiliating would also constitute the offence rendered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act, 2015.
Even though we are progressing forward as an economy, we are still held by shackles of discrimination. The problem lies in the mentality and other illogical conclusions that we draw from our ancient rituals and customs which were in accordance with the need and situation of that time. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act, 1989 is a way forward in order to deal with many caste-related issues and the recent amendment of 2015 is like a cherry on the cake in terms of policy improvement, but what is needed is the effective and right implementation of these legislatures. Moreover, we need campaigns to support the cause of backward classes. By doing this, we will not only progress as an economy but also society.