India has been a land of many religions and faiths. Yet, after almost 70 years, we still talk about discrimination on the lines of creed and community.
The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, was formulated to prevent atrocities against the Dalit communities in India. India has been plagued by a mindset of discrimination ever since the caste system came into existence. After independence, when our forefathers drafted and implemented a Constitution that was equal for all, it upset the societal structure of India. We are still plagued by the mindest of discrimination.
The one thing that I would like to stress on is the urban and rural divide in the understanding of discrimination.
The discrimination faced by any and every human being is dictated by the society one lives in. In the context of urban spaces, it can be seen that often people, while looking at their own surroundings, consider that the magnitude of discrimination in rural areas isn’t as much as it’s made out to be. While this does sound like a rampant generalisation, it does seem to have an element of truth in it.
It is also important to unite the understanding of discrimination in both the urban and rural areas. But, the underlying fact is that underpinning the socio-economic discrimination both face is common.
I would like to explore why the Supreme Court sought to review the act. Why did they say that an immediate arrest should not be made and why did they seek to dilute it? The biggest argument given by the Supreme Court is that in 75% of the cases, the accused are acquitted – and that in the last year, there has also been a drop in the number of cases registered.
But does the SC recognise the fact that the NCRB data, which they have used to accommodate their argument, also throws in an appalling figure – that there has been a 66% increase in the cases of atrocities in the last 10 years?
Can they deny the fact that the rising number of cases of vigilantism have directly impacted the Dalit community?
Can the Supreme Court not see the fact that the standing of Dalits in the society has still not drastically improved? Most of the Dalit population is still labouring under menial jobs and is being sidelined by the mainstream society. Even in the so-called private sector, there is no proper data as such to understand if there has been any improvement in the employment of Dalits.
Can anyone deny that this judgment has many more far-reaching economic implications, other than the social discrimination angle that abounds?
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, and I believe its integrity should never be questioned. However, today, it looks like the situation keeps arising every few months.
Was there even one Dalit judge on the roster that passed these observations?
The answer is no. Was there a wider consultation with the representative groups of Dalits or even a proper observation of the data and understanding of the socio-economic fabric of Indian society? I don’t know, but I highly doubt it.
Somewhere, it feels like a very discriminatory and indigestible observation broadly painted on the day-to-day difficulties faced by a Dalit in this country. To me, it sounds draconian from the onset.
Yes, there might be innocent people who have been accused – and yes, the Constitution does call for impartial justice. But when the privileged sections of the society are so unjust and draconian in discriminating against Dalits, then a provision that gives them a safeguard should not be snatched away either. This should not happen.
If there was discrimination and a wrongful implementation of the act before, now there will be a misuse of the same observations that the honourable court has laid down.
It is imperative that a wider consultation is done. This is necessary before making any more observations in such a case. What many people do not consider is that, either directly, or in some way or the other, this impacts almost 16% of the Indian population.
I hope that the review petition on this observation will be taken up by a larger bench, and they will have a much better understanding of the sensitivity of the act. This should be suitably revised, if not reverted.
I hope that logic and sanity prevails, and that they set up an enquiry to see why the drop in the number of cases of atrocities has happened. We also need to check malpractices in such courts – malpractices both against the victim and the accused.