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District Level Consultations on Proposed Amendments to SC/ST (PoA) Act

SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989 a special Act meant for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes has come into force 23 years ago. A review of its implementation on the completion of 20 years has been on at national level as well as in the state of Andhra Pradesh since 2009 by likeminded organizations forming into National Coalition for effective implementation of SC/ST (PoA) Act. A similar process has been going on in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

In this process national coalition in coordination with National Advisory Council (NAC), Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies (RGICS) and National Law School of India have organised various consultations and framed out a draft on proposed amendments and shared the same with Ministry for Social Justice.

It has been decided to hold a state level consultation and Jhansi Geddam was made the Convener of the state coalition. In this regard a state level consultation with 73 organizations from 23 districts was organized on 3rd September 2012 at Ravendra Bharathi, Hyderabad. Subsequent to the state level consultation, it has been decided to hold district level consultations in all the districts of the state on proposed amendments to SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989 and Rules 1995 in order to take stalk of the situation, to campaign deep into the districts, to gather much feedback from the grass root levels and to build more pressure on the government for accepting the proposed amendments to the Act and Rules.

Discussions were made continuously with the like-minded organizations of respective districts for holding the consultations. During the consultations in the districts Jhansi Geddam has detailed about the process at national and state levels. Explaining about the proposed amendments she stated as mentioned below:

To bring in more sections in to the existing Act to cover more aspects such as discrimination in educational institutions, mid – day meals, employment, private sector etc.

To include a new chapter on the rights of victims and witnesses. To make provision for accessing necessary updating on the investigation process, about chare sheet and court process. To inbuilt a system to make sure the payment of relief, compensation and rehabilitation on time.

Though it is a special Act, still the punishments vary from IPC. Since the punishments are very low, there is every need for making the punishments on par with the IPC or higher.

To delete the words such as ‘Intent’, ‘Intention’, ‘ Public place’, ‘Wilful’ as it is leading to wrong interpretation thus safe guarding the perpetrators.

The details of the district consultations are as follows:

East Godavari District:

The district consultation of East Godavari district was held on 8th October 2012 at Bennet Hall, Collectorate, Kakinada. It was presided over by P. Ambedkar-Senior Advocate and the dignitaries on the dias were Fr Palli Thanam – Chairman CWC, Jhansi Geddam – State Coalition, Peddi Raju Secretary-SC Welfare Association, D Subba Rao – KVPS, Talluri Vijay Kumar Vice President-MMN, P.Vara Prasad-RPI, P. Sesharatnam-PARA and I. Suryanarayana-DBVKS.

The representatives of various other organisations have participated and shared their experiences and concerns.

Amendments suggested are as follows:

Ø Inherent powers of High courts in granting Anticipatory Bails, Quashing the FIRs and issuing Stay Orders shouldn’t be applicable for atrocity cases.

Ø To bring an Act for Life Imprisonment.

Ø Most of the people belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are agricultural labourers. Often minimum wages under Labour Act and equal wages for women are not paid. This should be treated as bonded labour and include under Sec 3(1) (VI) of SC/ST (PoA) Act.

Ø High Courts are granting bails to the accused under 482 of CrPC within a day of arrest. This provision should be removed.

Press meet:

A press meet was organised in Ambedkar Bhavan, Rajahmundry on 8th October.Various dalit

organisations SC/ST employ welfare associations, academicians, advocates and individuals have participated in the press meet. Jhansi Geddam has detailed about the proposed amendments and the process so far. The press has raised doubts on the passing of the bill in the parliament as there is much discontentment among the non dalits and the support of the SC/ ST MPs is also doubt full. Answering to the media Jhansi Geddam has said a series of meetings held with the ministry of social justice as well as with the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and their willingness to bring the amendments bill in the coming winter session.

Ranga Reddy District:

The district consultation of Ranga Reddy district was held on 11th October 2012 at meeting hall, MPDO Office, Vikarabad. The meeting was presided over by Bhagya Lakshmi – District Coordinator of DSS and the other dignitaries on the dais were Chowdeswari DSP-Vikarabad, Jhansi Geddam – State Coalition, Ashayya – MRPS, Mogulayya – DBF.

The representatives of various organisations present were Saritha – DBMS, N Shanappa –

BSP, Eswar - Venkataiah – MV Foundation, Mallesh – KVPS, Sundar – VHPS, Venkatesh – CRPF, Yellaaiah – Rithu Sangham, Kiran – Lambada Hakkula Porata Samithi, Mogulaiah – TDP, Buchamma – DWC, Ramulu – Dalitha Sena, Dasaradh – Mercy org, Ramulu – Bhagat singh youth, M Srinivas – Suryodaya, Siva Raj and Anandam from Ambedkar Youth Associations, Mallaiah - Advocate. The DSP in her speech has stressed on the burden of proof lying on the victims, delay in FSL, caste certificates etc., leading to delay of charge sheet. Various organisation heads shared that lot of pressure from the dominant community and the police are coming for compromise and the police are delaying the registration of FIR giving scope for compromise.

Amendments suggested are as follows:

Ø In IPC the burden of proof lies on the accused, whereas in SC/ST Act it lies on the victims. Therefore to make necessary amendment on SC/ST PoA Act to shift the ‘Burden of Proof’ on to the accused.

Ø Much delay is caused in issue of FSL reports and caste certificates leading to the delay in filing charge sheet. Therefore necessary amendments to be made to avoid delay of FSL reports and caste certificates etc.

Ø To bring an amendment specifying the time for registration of FIR once the complaint is received.

Visakhapatnam District:

The district consultation of Visakhapatnam district was held on 12th October 2012 at Press Club, Visakhapatnam. The meeting was presided over by Prof Sudha of AP University of Law and the other dignitaries on the dais were G.Srinivas IPS Superintendent of Police, Srinivasan Joint Director-SWD, Jhansi Geddam – State Coalation, Dr Adams Relli Sangham, R. Venkararamana-MMN, Lakshmi–POW, Sri Ram Murthy-APCLC, Venkata Ramana-Dalita Vimukthi, and Venkataramana-Ambedkar Students Association of Andhra University. G.Srinivas SP spoke about the role of IOs and the overload the police department is carrying in the form of maintaining Law & Order by leaving the remaining 3 responsibilities such as Prevention, Detection and Protection. He also said about the control mechanisms in the police department while referring the cases as false. The department also needs training on the Act and its implementation. Srinivasan JD-SWD has focussed on the accountability of the duty bearers and the lack of system to check the negligence of duty.

The representatives of various other organisations have participated and shared their experiences and concerns.

Amendments proposed are:

Ø To appoint 2 officers not less than the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police per district as Investigation Officers exclusively for this Act.

Ø To build an inbuilt system in SC/ST Act like the RTE which make the duty bearers accountable and if they fail to discharge their duties are punishable.

Ø To workout inbuilt procedure for systematic payment of Relief, Compensation, Rehabilitation etc to avoid all sorts of delays and burden to the victims and witnesses.

Ø To build a control mechanism within the police department on referring as false cases.

Ø To specify on the payment of compensation for the cases referred as false.

Ø To sort out the operational difficulties in the payment of TA/ DA to the victims and witnesses where ever applicable to ensure the prompt payment.

Ø To bring in an amendment to include social boycott.

Ø To bring in an amendment on establishment of special courts specifically for SC/ST Act and fix up a time for trial.

Vizayanagaram District:

The district consultation of Vizayanagaram district was held on 15th October 2012 at ZP Conference hall, Vizayanagaram. The meeting was presided over by P.Chitti Babu – DBSU and the other dignitaries on the dais were N. Mohan Rao CEO-Zilla Parishad, Jhansi Geddam, N. Jyayaraj Ex MLA, Ram Babu-BSP, Sambayya-BSP, Rama Rao Member-DVMC, Ramana Advocate, Pydi Raju, Nageswara Rao and others. The CEO in his speech has said that the terms such as ‘wilful’ ‘intention’ to be more clear and SC ST Act need to have an appellant authority like the RTI in all the departments.

The representatives of various other organisations have participated and shared their experiences and concerns. Most of them have shared that the performance levels of the dalit officers is not up to the mark and they should come to know that they need to pay back to the society.

Amendments suggested are as follows:

Ø To make more specific for the establishment of special courts.

Ø To include dalit Christians as dalits under this Act

Ø To establish an appellant authority for SC ST PoA Act in all the departments

West Godavari District:

The district consultation of West Godavari district was held on 17th October 2012 at Conference Hall of Hotel Madulatha, Eluru. It was presided over by Manisingh – District Convener of SCP & TSP and the dignitaries on the dias were Mallikarjuna Rao JD-SWD, Sudarshan – MTS State President, Jhansi Geddam, K Krishna Rao – Advocate, P Hari Krishna- member DVMC, Devarakonda Venkateswarlu – AP Girijana Sankshema Sangham, A Durga Prasad – Erukula Sankshema Sangham and Jagadeswara Rao – Inspector of police.

The representatives of Caste based organisations, Ambedkar organisations, Buddhist and welfare organisations, Advocates, Employ welfare organisations have participated and shared their experiences and concerns. Mallikarjuna Rao – Joint Director has said that the implementation of the Act should be reviewed once in 10 years, should possess in built systems like RTE. Many dalit leaders have shared that the government should attach the assets of the perpetrators and pay compensation from that amount. Include the Act in the school syllabus.

Amendments suggested are as follows:

Ø To review the Act once in 10 years

Ø To make a provision for inbuilt system like the RTE

Ø To attach the assets of the perpetrators

Ø Include the Act in the school syllabus.

Krishna District:

The district consultation of Krishna District was held on 18th October 2012 at Press Club, Vijayawada. The dignitaries on the dais were Jhansi Geddam, Prakash Kumari – Girl Child development Officer, P Devanandam APD - DWMA, John Raj – Convener – Child Line, Bhagavan Das – Chairman SC Cell Congress, Bhu Laxmi – KVMS, K Venkateswara rao – Chairman Anti Liquor Campaign, Yesu Padam – CASA, T. Nageswara Rao – Tribal Welfare Organization, Shakira – Jagruti, Anitha – SC Cell YSRCP, P Ramesh – MMN, KP Geetha – Advocate and B Sharat Babu – Advocate.

The leaders while sharing their experiences have stated that most of the officials lack awareness in the Act, cases not registered immediately, giving importance for counter cases, much delay in trial process, to make the SC Commission more effective and maintain reservation system in all statutory bodies. Child line has felt that there are many loop holes in the Child Labour Act, the negligence of police and discrimination in education institutions.

Amendments suggested are as follows:

Ø To make necessary provisions for inclusion of domestic child workers

Ø To include caste discrimination specifically in the Act

Ø To organise awareness and orientation camps to the officials on the Act regularly

Ø To appoint a district officer specifically for the implementation of the Act

Ø Include the Act in the school syllabus.

Ø To fix up the time period for trial

Ø To provide judiciary powers for SC/ST Commission

Ø To include the implementation of the reservation in statutory bodies under the purview of the Act

The organizations, activists and academicians have participated enthusiastically and own the process. All have come prepared with the proposed amendments and have shared their experiences and have promised to take forward this campaign in their respective areas.

Future Course of Action:

Took responsibility of approaching the MLAs, MPs, MLCs and CBOs and procure their consent letters on the proposed amendments

Took the responsibility of procuring signatures in support of these proposed amendments

To participate in the mammoth public meeting at New Delhi on November 23rd.

Chittoor District:

The district consultation of Chittoor district was held on 27th October 2012 at Sri Chellappa Mastri Memorial Hall, Dr B R Ambedkar Bhavan in Tirupati. The meeting was chaired by S

Viswanadh. Anjaiah – State General Secretary of RPI has detailed about the objective of the meeting and the process made so far. The other dignitaries on the dais were A Subrahmanyam – District Convener of RPI, K Ram Murthy – Samajika Chaitanya Vedika, C Kotaiah – AP Yanadi Sangham, Moses – Vyavasaya Kulila Union, N Rama Chandraiah – AP Vyavasaya Kulila Samikya, Amarnadh – Dalitha Bahujana Hakkula Vedika, K Murali – A P S C welfare Association.

The victims and witnesses of various incidents belonging to the areas of Chandragiri, Tirupati, Palamaneru, Chetepalli, Somala, Srikalahasti, KVB Puram, Renigunta have participated and narrated their agony.

Experiences shared:

  • Though the implementation of the Act is nearing 25 years, the police and other line departments have failed in accessing the Act to the SCs and STs.

  • Unless and until we agitate the cases are not being registered.

  • We need to make the SC/ST MLAs and MPs accountable for the implementation of the Act

  • Much publicity and awareness on the Act to be made in the villages

  • Many communities do not know that the Act is there for them

  • All the dalit and adivasi organisations need to come on to a platform for the effective implementation of the Act

Kurnool District:

The district consultation of Kurnool district was held on 3rd November 2012 at Dr B R Ambedkar Bhavan in Kurnool. The meeting was chaired by M Giri Coordinator Sravanthi Human Rights Organization. The other dignitaries on the dais were P Saraiah – ED SC Corporation, Jhansi Geddam , TP Shelanna – AP SC Welfare Association, G Ravi – AP State Council Member of Girijana Samikya. Jhansi Geddam – Convener AP State Coalition in her introductory speech explained about the campaign, implementation of the Act and suggested amendments until now.

The representatives of other organizations present in the meeting were G Joseph, J Maria Das, K Sambasivudu, M Chennaiah, G Sekher from Malamahanadu, L Swamulu from Arunodaya Rural Development Society, B Sreenu, N Madileti, Y Seshanna from Madiga Dandora, Adv P Y Suresh, T Pullanna – SC ST Students Federation, Anand Babu- KVPS, V Jyothi – DBF, Nagesh – CBYA, D S Khanna – SC Corporation, GDV Prakash, V Bal Reddy from Dalit Sthree Sakthi.

The participants have narrated various experiences in different incidents of violence such as the threats from the perpetrators belonging to dominant communities as the area being a faction area, the reluctance of the police in registering the case and arrest of the accused, counter cases, forcing for compromise, vast delay in payment of compensation and the failure

of machinery in taking preventive measures to curtail atrocities.

Saraiah has shared his experience of strengthening the community, forming committees at village, mandal and district levels and unionising them is the only way to prevent the atrocities on the SCs and STs. Therefore he suggested doing the same in this district and poses a strong challenge to the dominant communities.

Adilabad District:

The district consultation of Adilabad district was held on 5th November 2012 at AP State