Kerala: Adivasi victims of crime not compensated since 2014, officers say delay in providing monetary relief taking a toll on conviction rate
The delay in paying relief is having a direct bearing on the conviction rate as the poor witnesses are turning hostile during the trial, said an officer.
KASARGOD: The state government has not paid monetary relief to Scheduled Tribe victims of crimes since 2014, which is triggering a serious miscarriage of justice, according to investigating officers.
"The delay in paying relief is having a direct bearing on the conviction rate as the poor witnesses are turning hostile during the trial," said an officer.
In the norms for relief amount -- framed under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act -- the central government has notified 47 categories of offences in which the state governments will have to pay compensation ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 8.25 lakh to the adivasi and dalit victims.
This enhanced compensation came into being with an amendment in the rules in 2016. "Earlier, there were only 22 kinds of offences with minimum compensation ranging from Rs 60,000 to Rs 5 lakh," said an officer.
Going by the earlier rules, the Department of Scheduled Tribe Development owed around Rs 40 lakh to 30 victims of atrocities in the district, said an officer of the Special Mobile Squad, a wing of the police that investigates crimes against SC and ST community members. "If we consider the amended rules, the compensation amount would shoot up again," he said.
Officers said the delay paying the compensation is taking a toll on the conviction rate, especially when the victims are from economically backward community.
In 2016, the prosecution managed to get zero conviction from 34 cases registered under the act. In 2017, it bettered its record by procuring one conviction from 25 cases.
It was a case of child abuse registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, said the police.
In 2015, 39 of the 43 cases were disposed off with conviction. In 2014, there were only five conviction in 41 cases that were disposed, officers said.
They said the accused were often moneyed people who paid the victims to buy their silence. "It often works," said an officer.
Police said the Act mandates the constitution of vigilance and monitoring committees at the state and the district levels. "The committee should ensure the victim should get up to 50% of the total relief amount at the time of registering the FIR. The rules are clear. The money should be paid within two weeks," said the officer of the SMS. But in Kasargod, victims are not paid for the past four years.
The drop in conviction is in sharp contract to the rising number of cases filed under the Act.
In 2016, 35 cases were reported under the prevention of atrocities Act, and five cases of child sexual abuse, according to data sourced from SMS. In 2017, the number of cases reported under the Act jumped to 57, an increase of 63%. Child abuse cases nearly tripled to 14 in the same year.
When contacted, an official of the Department of ST Development said the dues amounted to not more than Rs 19 lakh, a figure rejected by the police.
The official said the government had released Rs 5 lakh now, and the next tranche would come as soon as we exhaust the fund. But police say that rules were being flouted and justice strangled by the red tape.