Tapas Mandal speaks on The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018


Thank you, Deputy Speaker Sir, for allowing me to speak on The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018. I am much thankful to my party leader, Mamata Banerjee, my other party leaders and Trinamool Congress, and the people of Bengal belonging to the SC and ST communities.

Our leader Mamata Banerjee is trying hard to protect the people from the downtrodden classes. In Bengal, our leader cares for them and that is not my claim. The report itself says that SCs and STs are taken care of very well and are safe in the state of Bengal, as compared to the other States of India.

Today we are very happy to see the Amendment, long awaited and a welcome decision by the Government. The Government has brought this Amendment following huge pressure in this country – agitation and a lot of unrest among the Dalit communities – and due to this huge pressure the Government was bound to come to Parliament with this Amendment. It is not their intention but they have been pressured to do so. My point is that if they were really willing to make this Amendment, why then did they not come up with an Ordinance earlier? The judgement of the Supreme Court came on March 20, in the case Subhash Kashinath Mahajan vs the State of Maharashtra, where the Supreme Court gave the following judgement: “The essence is that the preliminary inquiry must be prior to FIR if the member of the scheduled caste community or scheduled tribe community was harassed by the common people.”

Another concern of mine is that if the Government was really in favour of this Amendment, why then was the judge who gave a judgement against the Dalit community in the Supreme Court appointed by the Government the very next day in the National Green Tribunal? Why? This is against the interests of the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities of this country. However, we feel relieved that our party, under the guidance of Mamata Banerjee, supports the Bill and the Amendment since coming to power in Bangla. People from the SC, ST, OBC and minority communities feel safe in our State and Mamata Banerjee cares for them. This is not just our claim but is borne out by the evidence of the public report of the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau).

If we look at the national statistics, we can see that since 2014, Bihar is the state which has recorded the highest rate of crime against the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe populations. For crimes against the scheduled castes specifically, Madhya Pradesh, a BJP-ruled State is at the top, with 43.4 per cent of the crimes. For crimes against the scheduled tribe population, Rajasthan, again a BJP-ruled state, is at the top, with 12.9 per cent of the crimes. It is a shame for the country that wherever the NDA or the BJP are in power, crimes against SCs and STs are the highest.

Sir, you see, seven members of a Dalit family were publicly beaten up by a group of ‘gau-rakshaks’ for skinning a dead cow in Una town in Gujarat on May 21, 2018. Five people were accused of flogging Mukesh Vaniya, a 30-year old Dalit man, who tried to get out of a factory, to death in Rajkot, Gujarat. So a lot of crimes against SCs and STs have happened in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and in so many other States where the BJP is in power.

This Amendment proposes that preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a first information report (FIR) against any person and secondly, the investigating officer shall not require approval for arrest, if necessary, of any person. We support these clauses. We support them for the sake of the SC and ST communities. I think nobody in this Parliament will oppose this section and this Amendment because it is a long-pending demand. It is the demand of the depressed classes, it is the demand of the SC and ST communities and all of us support this Amendment.

If we look at the statistics, then we will see over 1.44 lakh cases of atrocities against scheduled castes and 23,408 cases of atrocities against scheduled tribes came for trial before the judiciary in 2016, as per the last available data of NCRB. In the case of scheduled castes, trial was completed in only 10 per cent of the cases and just a fourth of those ended in convictions. In case of scheduled tribes, trial was completed in only 12 per cent of the cases and only a fifth of those ended in conviction. So the number of courts exclusively for cases under the SC/ST Act is very less as compared to the requirement. Out of the 700-odd districts, only 194 have exclusive courts for the SC/ST Act. The other districts also need these kind of exclusive courts to give proper justice to the communities.

Poor rate of convictions point to an unfinished agenda identified with the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The law commonly called the SC ST Act requires all states to provide for an ample number of special courts that can hear cases of atrocities against SC/STs. The rising tendency of atrocities and falling convictions are the concerns of the country right now. Thus almost 90% of the cases filed under SC/ST Act languish at the end of every year and when they do manage to complete trial, on an average five years later, and majority of the accused are acquitted. If we go to the increase of crimes against SC/STs between 2010 and 2016, we will see crime has increased by 10% against SC and 6% against ST. We see a rise of the pending cases against SC and ST. During 2016 pending cases were 91% against SC and 78% against STs. Conviction for crimes against SC/ST during 2016 was only 16% and 2010 it was 38%. My question is it was far better in 2010 where the conviction was 38% and, when this present government took over, the percentage came down to 16%. This means conviction is reduced to very large extent and pendency of the cases are increasing.

As much as 98.6% of all the crimes against Scheduled Castes that came for trial in 2016 did not end in conviction. In the cases of crimes against ST, 99.2 % cases did not see conviction, and this is the failure of the present government. Total 14 states have special courts mandated by Section 14 of the Act. Others have designated district and the sessions courts for this purpose; 10% of the cases of the crimes against SC/ST under police investigation are labelled as false.

So these are the problems that we are having in our country. If we see the crimes and atrocities against persons of SC, we will see high prevalence states like Uttar Pradesh 25.6%, Rajasthan 12.6 %; if we see metropolitan cities, high prevalence of the crimes and atrocities against SC, the cities are Jaipur in Rajasthan, Lucknow, Kanpur in UP. These all are the states ruled by BJP governments. Since 2014, crimes against STs have seen an overall decrease of 3.8% only with a significant drop of 8% in 2015. So it is our concern also. High convictions but huge backlog. The judiciary is the body in charge of enforcing the rights of SC/STs under the Act by conducting a fair trial and convicting in case of guilt. Conviction rate for cases involving SC/ST atrocities are slightly below the all India rate of 21% and for STs 20.8% and are significantly higher in cases involving SC 25%. Conviction rates are particularly low in states like Karnataka, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. In case of Rajasthan, a lot of incidents and crimes against SC/STs have happened, and at the police investigations stage, a total number of 1,060 cases were disposed by the police due to mistake of fact of the victim. Out of these cases, 691 of these took place in the state of Rajasthan. This is a serious concern where most of the SC/ST people are being beaten up by the mob and in the name of mob-lynching, in the name of hate crimes, mostly the downtrodden people the SC/ST and the minorities are the victims. So, these things happened mostly in the states where the BJP government rules.

Many of the people Honourable members they were talking about Ambedkar and his contributions. I only want to make few points. Ambedkar is now a point of business. BJP is doing business with this name, INC is doing business with this name. We, the common people, we the people from the downtrodden classes, we should not see Ambedkar will be a point of business. Baba Saheb Ambedkar is a father-figure and if we want to respect him, we have to pay respect to the downtrodden community of this country. That is not there in this country specially in the BJP ruled areas.

I want to give some suggestions, number one, establishment of the courts exclusively for SC/ST communities in the whole country, the number of courts is very less as compared to the present requirement. Therefore establishing the maximum number of courts exclusively for the cases for the SC/STs should be established. Vacancies in the courts to be filled up immediately with priority. So that the increasing tendency of the cases could be minimum.

Then, justice, that is the ultimate objective for downtrodden people. They should not wait for a long time. They have to wait for five years, ten years, fifteen years and after that no judgement comes. Therefore speedy justice is required for the people.

Empowerment of the SC/ST community people, that is another issue. By giving them the proper education, legal facilities, you can improve their social status. And lastly, I want to highlight those points, the implement of the Tribal Sub Plan, SC Sub Plan, the implement of funds under these plans. It is required and the diversion of the funds is not required. Deputy Speaker Sir, with these words I from my party rise for supporting this amendment. Thank you.