Cases under SC/ST Act up in TN, but conviction rate low

According to the data (released in September), three persons were convicted in 2017, none in 2018, and ten in 2019.

Published: 06th November 2021 05:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th November 2021 05:27 AM   |  A+A-


Express News Service

CHENNAI: With actor Suriya’s Jai Bhim bringing the atrocities committed against tribals to a sharper focus, data from the Union government show cases registered on criminal atrocities against tribals have risen since 2017. But conviction is negligible. While chargesheeted cases were about 60 per cent of the total cases registered, convictions took place in only 10 per cent, shows the data (see graphics).

According to the data (released in September), three persons were convicted in 2017, none in 2018, and ten in 2019. The data seems to strike an eerie correlation with the theme of Jai Bhim, which talks about the Herculean task for tribal victims to prove their case in a court, especially when they are against dominant caste members and powerful State authorities like the police. 

Retired Madras High Court Judge K Chandru, on whose life the film was based on, told TNIE there is heavy prejudice against tribals at all levels – from the recording of the FIR and investigating the case to filing the chargesheet, trial, and conviction. “None in this chain is sensitive. Therefore it (prejudice) is bound to happen. There’s no organised force to make them (conviction) happen,” he said, adding landowners and locally powerful caste unite when it’s against a tribal; they also seek repeal of the SC/ST Act.

P Shanmugam, who founded the Tamil Nadu Tribals Association in 1992, said he has helped at least hundred tribals to register an FIR in police stations. “But nothing happens beyond filing an FIR as the police generally take up the side of the dominant castes,” he added. 

Citing an example of a case in Vandavasi, Shanmugam said, his association, in 2018, helped a tribal woman to file an FIR against sexual harassment allegedly committed on her by members of a dominant caste at the brick kiln she worked. Nothing, however, happened after that FIR. “The tribal woman needed to work at the brick kiln anyway for a living so she was threatened to not visit the station again,” he said. 

He also recalled an instance in Vellore’s Kalavai Police station in 2019 where an Irular woman filed a rape case against a dominant caste person. But, members of the dominant caste allegedly coerced the woman into withdrawing the case by threatening to banish her and family from the village.

Activists stressed that, in many instances, when a tribal files a complaint, the dominant caste members file a counter cover petition, accusing them back and the police fail to investigate further. “Most of the tribals do not go to court to get a conviction. The evidence gets distorted and the tribals generally are a fearful community,” said R Thamilarasu, Tiruvallur District Secretary of State Tribals Association. 

Referring to Professor Kalyani, a social activist who works with Irular tribes, the retired High Court judge said before the professor came, none among the tribals knew about filing a case. “Slowly awareness spread on filing FIRs under provisions of the the SC/ST act. Then, fight to have a special prosecutor started, and now convictions are taking place.”


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