NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court's verdict diluting stringent provisions mandating immediate arrest under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (POA) Act has drawn criticism from a Dalit organisation which said it would lead to "great miscarriage of justice".
Expressing its concern over the top court's March 20 verdict, the National Executive Committee of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch(DSMM) has urged the Centre to file a review petition so that the Act remained effective.
"The dilution in the stringency of the Act will lead to great miscarriage of justice. It must be remembered that in many cases the accused are government servants and officials".
"Government offices and departments are sites of discrimination and injustice to SCs and STs (schedule castes and schedule tribes). The police also has a record of committing grave crimes against these sections of society," it said.
"We, therefore, appeal to the Government of India to file a review petition to nullify the changes sought to be made by the apex court.
The central and state governments must make all efforts to strictly implement the provisions of the Act.
"We also request all progressive and democratic minded people and law makes and intellectuals to oppose the dilution of the provisions of this Act," DSMM said.
It said that the Supreme Court has most unfortunately modified Section 18 of the Act in the name of "misuse".
"The truth is that in cases of atrocities against SCs and STs not only is the conviction rate very low but there is delay at every stage from filing charge sheets to proceeding with the matters in court," the organisation said.
The apex court had on March 20 taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against government servants and held that there shall be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law.
It had passed a slew of directions and said a public servant can be arrested in cases lodged under the SC/ST Act only after prior approval by the competent authority.
The statement released by DSMM general secretary and former MP Ramchandra Dom said that delays in arrests of the accused will be used to browbeat the victims and force them to withdraw cases.
"This is already being done because of the disproportionate access to power and influence between the victims who are socially and economically weak and the accused can not change the law.
"In fact there is a great need to see that cases of atrocities are registered and pursued stringently and without unnecessary delay.
If the fear of being arrested is removed from the minds of the perpetrators then we will see an even greater increase in attacks and violence against the SCs and STs," the DSMM said.