New Delhi- Justice is the cornerstone of any society, a beacon of hope for every citizen. When marginalized communities face injustice, they turn to the law, seeking recourse under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. However, the reality in a vast nation like India is far from the ideal.
An audit report by the Citizen's Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (CVMC) sheds light on a disheartening truth—cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are not only increasing but also languishing in the courts, leaving the affected communities in a state of limbo.
The CVMC came up with the report on 14th October that reveals the dark scenario. The first-ever 'Citizen's Audit of the Union Report under Section 21(4) of The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989,' exposes the grim facts that various Scheduled communities across the nation face.
The report mentions that since 2017, the cases of atrocities have been increasing in the courts. People are waiting for justice. Many states are witnessing a doubling of pending cases over the past few years.
A total of 222,974 cases of atrocities against the scheduled castes were pending since 2020. Out of this large number, just 10,223 (4.58%) were disposed of by the courts in 2021. For cases of atrocities against scheduled tribes, 35,415 cases have been pending since 2020. Out of them, only 1,961 (5.5%) were disposed of in 2021. These figures do not include the cases sent to court in 2021, so these figures are all more than a year old. Courts hardly comply with the guideline to complete the trial within two months of filing the charge-sheet.
From 2017 to 2021, the number of atrocities cases pending in court has increased by 68%, from 176,067 in 2017 to 295,115 in 2021. This has resulted in a 66% increase in pending cases of atrocities against the scheduled castes and a 77% increase in pending cases of atrocities against the scheduled tribes. At this rate, the pendency will keep increasing, and the backlog will never be cleared. Even if unintended, these delays are fatigue-inducing and lead to acquittals.
Pending cases of insult to the modesty of women have almost doubled (93%) in three years for the scheduled castes and by two-thirds (62%) for scheduled tribes. Scheduled tribes whose cases have been charge-sheeted as simple hurt have 75% of their cases pending.
The states with the greatest number of pending cases of atrocities against the scheduled castes are Uttar Pradesh (67,512 cases), Bihar (53,387 cases), and Madhya Pradesh (30,770 cases). For scheduled tribes, the states are Madhya Pradesh (30,770 cases), Odisha (5,852 cases), and Rajasthan (4,882). Between 2017 and 2021, only West Bengal and Chandigarh have reduced the number of pending cases of atrocities against scheduled castes, with a 70% and a 40% reduction, respectively. Talking about scheduled tribes, only the state of Manipur has seen a reduced number with a 25% reduction in cases of atrocities against the tribal community.
The number of pending cases of atrocities against the scheduled castes doubled in Andhra Pradesh (126%), Assam (125%), Haryana (205%), Himachal Pradesh (109%), Punjab (178%), Telangana (181%), Uttarakhand (183%), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (100%), and Jammu & Kashmir (200%). Similarly, for cases of atrocities against the scheduled tribes, the number doubled in Andhra Pradesh (101%), Chhattisgarh (116%), Telangana (172%), Uttar Pradesh (579%), and Uttarakhand (169%).
Increasing pendency has led to a low conviction rate in a vicious cycle. Longer delays are also due to fewer cases being heard, which leads to more pendency and more delays, resulting in lower conviction in a vicious cycle. Since 25% of the relief is paid only at the end of the trial, the monetized value of this delay is a minimum of 738 crore rupees and possibly over 3,000 crore rupees.
The All-India conviction rate for cases where the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, is invoked, was 36% for atrocities against ST in 2021. Only Mizoram, which has a 100% conviction rate, Uttar Pradesh (SC 76%), Jharkhand (SC 54%, ST 63%), had a conviction rate above 50% in the year 2021.
In the year 2021, the conviction rate in cases of inter-community murder of the scheduled castes was at 49%, and for scheduled tribes, it was 46%. In the very same year, the conviction rate for rape of women and girls from Dalit communities was at 28.8%, and the percentage for the same crime against Adivasi communities was at 30.8%.