Leadership Void in Madhya Pradesh's SC/ST Commissions Leaves Over 50 Thousand Cases Pending!

The positions of Chairman/Members in the State Scheduled Caste Commission, State Scheduled Tribe Commission, and State Women Commission have remained vacant since March 2023.
Leadership Void in Madhya Pradesh's SC/ST Commissions Leaves Over 50 Thousand Cases Pending!

Bhopal- "I am a woman belonging to the Scheduled Caste category. In April 2022, some people were threatening my husband. My husband runs a government ration shop and those people were demanding money from him every month. The accused threatened our family that if we do not give the money, they will complain falsely against us. Being upset with the illegal recovery, we complained to the police station and even wrote a letter to the SP but no action was being taken. The people threatening us were influential. We had complained to the Women's Commission and the Scheduled Caste Commission. But from there no action was taken either."

Nisha, a resident of Khaniyadhana tehsil of Shivpuri district, while talking to The Mooknayak , said the lack of response from law enforcement agencies prompted her to approach the Women's Commission and the Scheduled Caste Commission, only to encounter further delays and inaction. Here, a year has passed, but the Madhya Pradesh government could not constitute the Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe and Women Commission.

Troubled by not getting proper justice from police stations and administrative offices, when Dalits, tribals, and women come to the SC, ST, and Women's Commission in the hope of getting justice, they find a wait at the place of justice.

Chairman/members have not been appointed in the commissions for the last one year, due to which concrete action is not being taken on the complaints related to this section. Even after complaint in the Commission, the cases are pending for months.

The positions of Chairman/Members in the State Scheduled Caste Commission, State Scheduled Tribe Commission, and State Women Commission have remained vacant since March 2023. Despite receiving thousands of complaint letters, not a single one has been resolved by any of these commissions.

Speaking anonymously, an employee of the State Women's Commission disclosed that the Commission receives approximately three hundred complaints every month, totaling about three thousand complaints annually. While some complaints are unrelated to the Commission and are consequently rejected, the remaining applications undergo a process where investigation reports are requested from the relevant departments, and a file is meticulously prepared and maintained. Only after the completion of the investigation report are some of these cases resolved. However, for the remaining cases, action can only be taken upon the appointment of the Chairman/Member.

Commissions possess the powers equivalent to that of a civil court

When individuals perceive unfair actions from other administrative agencies, they can file a complaint with the commission. The commission then seeks an investigation report from the relevant department. If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the investigation conducted by the department and submitted to the commission, the case is brought before the bench of the commission.

With the authority akin to a civil court, the commission hears from concerned officers and parties involved. Upon resolving the matter, recommendations are forwarded to the government. However, due to the absence of chairpersons/members in the commissions, such actions cannot be pursued in these cases.

Challenges in Commission Appointments Lead to Escalating Case Backlog

The term of member Pradeep Ahirwar in the Scheduled Caste Commission concluded in March 2023. Meanwhile, Shobha Ojha was appointed to the Women's Commission in March 2020 under the then Congress's Kamal Nath government. Additionally, seven members, along with the Chairman and two members, were appointed to the SC/ST Commission. However, following the collapse of the government, the subsequent Shivraj administration rescinded the appointment orders.

Subsequently, the appointed chairman and members contested the government's decisions in court. As a result, the Jabalpur High Court issued a stay on the government's actions. While some members continued their roles, others awaited the High Court's decision. Consequently, the resolution of complaints was significantly hampered even during the three-year tenure of the commissions.

Former member of the State Scheduled Caste Commission, Pradeep Ahirwar, shared insights with The Mooknayak, highlighting that after the appointments in 2020, the BJP government annulled the appointments by placing the matter before the cabinet. These appointments are constitutionally mandated. However, the court promptly intervened, issuing a stay on the government's actions. As of now, the government has not made any new appointments. Ahirwar questioned the government's inaction, stating, "The government itself should answer why appointments were not made in the commissions for one year?"

Presently, approximately 27 thousand cases are pending in the Women's Commission. Former member of the State Women's Commission, Sangeeta Sharma, expressed concerns to The Mooknayak, noting that when the commission was established in 2020, around 10 thousand cases were already pending. It is likely that this number has since increased. Sharma criticized the government's rhetoric on women's rights, arguing that it does not align with their actions. She highlighted that the controversy stirred by the Shivraj government's cancellation of appointments resulted in a surge in the backlog of cases in the commissions.

Pending Cases Overwhelm Unstaffed Commissions

Commissions are constitutional institutions where appointments are made by the Governor. Upon receiving a complaint, the Commission solicits a report from the relevant department and takes action accordingly. Resolutions are typically handled by a bench consisting of the Chairman or members of the Commission. However, in the absence of these appointments, complaints are redirected to the Collector and Superintendent of Police.

Massive backlogs- The backlog of cases in the commissions continues to grow unabated. Sources indicate that approximately 50,000 cases are currently pending across the Women and SC/ST Commissions. Resolution of these cases hinges on the formation of the commission, but as of now, there is no indication of when appointments will be made. Each day, the commissions receive numerous complaints, leading to a constant influx of reports awaiting action.

Toll-Free Number Unavailable- In addition to email and written correspondence, complaints can be lodged with the Women's Commission via a toll-free number. The Commission has provided the toll-free number 1800-233-6112 on its official website for this purpose. However, callers attempting to reach the hotline are informed that the service is currently unavailable.

Origins of the Commissions: Establishing Institutional Framework

The establishment of the commissions dates back to 1995, marking a pivotal moment in the governance structure of Madhya Pradesh.

The Madhya Pradesh State Scheduled Caste Commission was brought into existence under Act No. 25 of 1995. This commission, comprising a Chairman and two non-official members, plays a crucial role in safeguarding the interests of Scheduled Caste members. The Commissioner holds the position of an ex-officio member of the Scheduled Castes Development Commission. Tasked with monitoring and ensuring the protection afforded to Scheduled Castes under the Constitution and other relevant laws, it operates as a vigilant watchdog commission.

The State Scheduled Tribe Commission emerged through a notification published in the Madhya Pradesh Gazette on June 29, 1995. This significant development was authorized by the Governor's permission dated May 24, 1995. Concurrently, acts were promulgated to delineate its functions and provide necessary recommendations.

Meanwhile, the Madhya Pradesh State Commission for Women was established by the State Government on March 23, 1998, pursuant to Section 3 of the Madhya Pradesh State Commission for Women Act 1995 (No. 20 of 1996). Enshrined within this legislative framework, the commission is empowered to appoint a Chairman and seven members, enabling it to effectively address issues concerning women's welfare and rights.

Story translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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