top of page

Understanding the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe

Written by: Kishan Chopda



Introduction to scheduled caste and scheduled tribes act in India. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, commonly known as the SC/ST Act, is a legislative framework in India designed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of historically marginalized and oppressed communities known as Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). These communities have faced social, economic, and political discrimination for centuries due to their caste and tribal status.


The SC/ST Act was first enacted in 1989 and has since been amended to strengthen its provisions. The law provides for the prevention and punishment of violence, discrimination, and violence against designated persons and groups, and includes measures to promote economic, social, and educational. The law aims to ensure social justice, and equal opportunity and eliminate racial discrimination and oppression.


There are various provisions in Law, such as the definition of crime, the establishment of special courts to deal with crimes within the scope of the Law, assistance and remedial measures for the rehabilitation of victims, and the addition of penalties for crimes committed by Castes and Tribes. for the protection of witnesses and complainants, as well as for the appointment of special prosecutors to hear cases under the Law. The SC/ST Act is an important legal instrument in India that addresses discrimination and violence and promotes social equity and equality for SC and ST.


However, the Act is also riddled with controversy and controversy, as well as concerns about its enforcement, abuse, and potential dilution of its provisions. However, protecting the interests of scheduled persons and scheduled groups is still an important piece of legislation in India.


Historical Overview of the SC/ST Act in India


The first Varnas of Hindu society were four in number viz., Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra. It was the social ladder in which the Brahmin occupied the topmost rung and the three others in order of prominence. It was said that God created the four Varnas referred to as supra from different parts of His body - the Brahmin from His mouth, the Kshatriya from His arms, the Vaisya from His thighs, and the Sudra from His feet. Naturally, as centuries passed by, the first three castes came to occupy the place of prominence in every aspect of human life, and the Sudra was pushed down and ultimately emerged as a servile servant for the upper caste people. Many restrictions came to be placed on the Sudras.


The Dr . B.R. Ambedkar, after thorough research, gave his opinion as to the architect of Free India’s reason for the low status of the Sudras in Hindu society. According to him, at the beginning of the emergence of the caste system in India, there were only three castes Brahmin, Kshatriya, and Vaisya. The fourth Varna of Sudra was an outcome of the fight between Brahmins and Kshatriyas for supremacy in the caste hierarchy. Those that were vanquished became Sudras and in the course, of time many restrictions were imposed To add to the social chaos and societal divisions, a fifth caste emerged called on the Sudras.


The historical overview of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in India can be traced back to the long-standing social, economic, and political discrimination faced by the marginalized communities of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the Indian caste system. The caste system in India, which is a hierarchical social structure, has existed for centuries and has resulted in the oppression and marginalization of certain castes and tribes, including SCs and STs. These communities have historically been subjected to discrimination, untouchability, social exclusion, economic exploitation, and violence due to their lower caste or tribal status.


1) In the Book "Dalit: The Black Untouchables of India" by V.T. Rajshekar, he discusses the role of Brahminism and the Indian caste system in embedding the notion of “untouchability” in Hindu culture. He also argues that the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is necessary to address the discrimination faced by Dalits and Adivasis in India. Rajshekar believes that the act is important in protecting and promoting the rights of these marginalized communities.


2) Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act: A Critical Appraisal" by V. Venkatesan is a book that critically examines the effectiveness of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which was enacted to prevent atrocities against members of these communities. The book provides an in-depth analysis of the Act and its implementation, highlighting the shortcomings and limitations of the legislation. Venkatesan argues that despite being a well-intentioned law, the Act has not been able to fully address the issues faced by Dalits and Adivasis in India.

The author also sheds light on the political and social factors that have impeded the effective implementation of the Act. He discusses how the Act has been misused by some sections of society to settle personal scores and how the lack of political will and administrative support has hindered its implementation. Overall, "Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act: A Critical Appraisal" is a thought-provoking read that offers valuable insights into the challenges of addressing caste-based discrimination in India. It is a must-read for anyone interested in social justice, human rights, and the fight against discrimination.


3) Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989: Law, Policy, and Cases" by Ratanlal & Dhirajlal is a comprehensive guide that provides a detailed analysis of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The book covers all aspects of the Act, including its history, scope, provisions, and implementation. It also examines the policy framework that underpins the Act and the legal and administrative mechanisms for its enforcement. One of the key strengths of the book is its coverage of landmark cases that have been decided under the Act. These cases provide valuable insights into the interpretation of the Act by the judiciary and the challenges faced in its implementation.

The authors also examine the socio-economic and political context in which the Act was enacted and its relevance in contemporary India. They argue that the Act remains an important legislative tool for addressing caste-based discrimination and violence and that its provisions need to be implemented more effectively to protect the rights of Dalits and Adivasis.


ST & SC Acts: Key Features


The ST (Scheduled Tribes) and SC (Scheduled Castes) Acts are laws enacted in India to protect the rights and welfare of the marginalized communities of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. Here are some key features of these acts:


Scheduled Tribes (ST) Act:

a) Protection from Atrocities: The ST Act provides protection to members of Scheduled Tribes from atrocities, discrimination, and violence, including acts of social boycott, exploitation, and humiliation.


b) Offences and Penalties: The act defines various offenses against Scheduled Tribes, including atrocities such as assault, sexual exploitation, and atrocities involving land and property. It also prescribes stringent penalties for these offenses.


c) Special Courts: The act provides for the establishment of special courts to exclusively handle cases related to atrocities against Scheduled Tribes, ensuring speedy justice and effective implementation of the law.


d)Rehabilitation and Compensation: The act mandates the provision of relief, rehabilitation, and compensation to the victims of atrocities, including medical support, financial assistance, and other forms of support.


e) Preventive Measures: The act empowers law enforcement agencies to take preventive measures to protect Scheduled Tribes, such as conducting regular surveillance, increasing patrolling in vulnerable areas, and taking measures to prevent the dispossession of their lands and properties.


Scheduled Castes (SC) Act:


a) Protection from Atrocities: The SC Act provides protection to members of Scheduled Castes from atrocities, discrimination, and violence, including acts of untouchability, castebased discrimination, and humiliation.

b) offenses and Penalties: The act defines various offenses against Scheduled Castes, including atrocities such as assault, sexual exploitation, and atrocities involving land and property. It also prescribes stringent penalties for these offenses.

c)Special Courts: The act provides for the establishment of special courts to exclusively handle cases related to atrocities against Scheduled Castes, ensuring speedy justice and effective implementation of the law.

d)Rehabilitation and Compensation: The act mandates the provision of relief, rehabilitation, and compensation to the victims of atrocities, including medical support, financial assistance, and other forms of support.

e) Preventive Measures: The act empowers law enforcement agencies to take preventive measures to protect Scheduled Castes, such as conducting regular surveillance, increasing patrolling in vulnerable areas, and taking measures to prevent the practice of untouchability and other forms of caste-based discrimination.


Overall, the ST and SC Acts are comprehensive legislations aimed at safeguarding the rights and interests of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes in India and ensuring their social, economic, and political empowerment. These acts play a crucial role in addressing social inequalities and promoting social justice for these marginalized communities.


The provisions related to special courts under the SC/ST Act include the following:


a) Exclusive Jurisdiction: Special courts established under the Act have exclusive jurisdiction to try cases related to atrocities against SCs and STs. No other court, other than the designated special courts, can try cases under this Act.

b) Time-bound Trials: The Act mandates that cases under the SC/ST Act be disposed of within two months from the date of filing of the charge sheet. Special courts are required to expedite the trial process and ensure that justice is delivered in a time-bound manner.

c) Protection of Witnesses: The Act provides for the protection of witnesses and complainants appearing before the special courts. It includes provisions for keeping the identity of the witness confidential and taking measures to ensure their safety and security.

d) Special Public Prosecutors: The Act allows for the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors for conducting cases before the special courts. These prosecutors are appointed by the state government and are responsible for representing the state in the trial of cases related to atrocities against SCs and STs.

e) Appellate Jurisdiction: The Act also provides for the establishment of appellate courts to hear appeals against the orders of the special courts. These appellate courts are usually the High Courts of the respective states.


The establishment of special courts under the SC/ST Act is aimed at ensuring speedy and effective justice for victims of atrocities against SCs and STs.


Appointment of Special Public Prosecutor:


The Act provides for the appointment of a Special Public Prosecutor for conducting cases under the Act. The State Government is required to appoint a qualified and competent public prosecutor as a Special Public Prosecutor for the purpose of handling cases related to atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Special Public Prosecutor is appointed by the State Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court or the Judge of the High Court designated by the Chief Justice.


Duties and Powers of Special Public Prosecutor:


The Special Public Prosecutor appointed under the Atrocities Act has the duty to present the case on behalf of the prosecution and to conduct the proceedings in a manner that ensures a fair and impartial trial. The Special Public Prosecutor has the same powers, functions, and duties as a public prosecutor under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.


Future of SC/ST Act :


Act was formulated with the aim of preventing and prohibiting atrocities against SC/ST individuals and providing them with safeguards, justice, and equality.

As we look into the future, the SC/ST Act is likely to undergo significant developments and changes, shaped by various factors and considerations. Firstly, it is expected that there will be an increased emphasis on the effective implementation of the SC/ST Act.


Despite the existence of the Act, atrocities against SC/ST individuals continue to persist in various parts of India. In the future, there may be a heightened focus on ensuring that the provisions of the Act are implemented in letter and spirit and that the perpetrators of atrocities are held accountable through prompt and fair legal proceedings.

This may involve strengthening the enforcement mechanisms, enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies, and creating awareness among the SC/ST communities about their rights and entitlements under the Act.


Secondly, there may be efforts to expand the scope of the SC/ST Act to cover new forms of discrimination and violence faced by SC/ST communities. The Act currently includes offenses such as caste-based discrimination, assault, sexual exploitation, and offenses under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against SC/ST individuals. In the future, there may be recognition of emerging forms of discrimination, such as discrimination in the digital space, economic exploitation, and discrimination based on gender or intersectional identities. This may involve amending the Act to make it more comprehensive and inclusive, addressing the evolving challenges faced by SC/ST communities.


Thirdly, there may be a focus on addressing the underlying socio-economic and structural factors that perpetuate discrimination and violence against SC/ST communities.


Reference and Sources:

The SC/ST Act search for provisions and historical overview & reference books:- 1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheduled_Caste_and_Scheduled_Tribe_(Prevention_of_Atr ocities)_Act,_1989

2] https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/what-is-sc-st-act-all-you-need-to-know-about-this1832430

3] https://www.claritypress.com/product/dalit-the-black-untouchables-of-india/ Rajshekar, V. T. (1996). Dalit: The Black Untouchables of India. Clarity Press.

4] Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act: A Critical Appraisal" by V. Venkatesan.

5] Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989: Law, Policy, and Cases" by Ratanlal & Dhirajlal.

70 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page