The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The Act is popularly known as POA, the SC/ST Act, the Prevention of Atrocities Act, or simply the Atrocities Act.
Article 17 of Indian Constitution seeks to abolish ‘untouchability’ and to forbid all such practices. It is basically a “statement of principle” that needs to be made operational with the ostensible objective to remove humiliation and multifaceted harassments meted to the Dalits and to ensure their fundamental and socio-economic, political, and cultural rights.
This is to free Indian society from blind and irrational adherence to traditional beliefs and to establish a bias free society. For that, Untouchability (Offences) Act 1955 was enacted. However, lacunae and loopholes impelled the government to project a major overhaul of this legal instrument. From 1976 onwards the Act was revamped as the Protection of Civil Rights Act. Despite various measures adopted to improve the socio-economic conditions of the SCs and STs they remain vulnerable and are subject to various offences, indignities and humiliations and harassment. When they assert their rights and against the practice of Untouchability against them the vested interest try to cow them down and terrorize them. Atrocities against the SCs and STs, still continued.
The normal provisions of the existing laws like, the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and Indian Penal Code have been found inadequate to check these atrocities continuing the gross indignities and offences against Scheduled Castes and Tribes. Recognizing these, the Parliament passed ‘Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act’, 1989 & Rules, 1995. The statement of objects and reasons appended to the Bill while moving the same in the Parliament, reads
- “despite various measures to improve the socioeconomic conditions of SCs & STs, they remain vulnerable. They are denied a number of civil rights; they are subjected to various offences, indignities, humiliations and harassment. They have, in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their life and property. Serious atrocities are committed against them for various historical, social and economic reasons.”
The preamble of the Act also states that the Act is
- “to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, to provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offenses and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
Thus objectives of the Act clearly emphasize the intention of the Government to deliver justice to these communities through proactive efforts to enable them to live in society with dignity and self-esteem and without fear or violence or suppression from the dominant castes. The practice of untouchability, in its overt and covert form was made a cognizable and non compoundable offence, and strict punishment is provided for any such offence.
The SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 with stringent provisions (which extends to whole of India except the State of Jammu & Kasmhir) was enacted on 9 September 1989. Section 23(1) of the Act authorises the Central Government to frame rules for carrying out the purpose of the Act. Drawing power from this section, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules of 1995 were framed. The rules for the Act were notified on 31 March 1995.
The purpose of the Act was to help the social inclusion of Dalits into Indian society, but the Act has failed to live up to its expectations admitted by the Union Minister for Home Affairs in parliament on 30 August 2010 (quoted below)..
|Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Rules 1995|
|Enacted by||Parliament of India|
|Date enacted||11 September 1989|
|Date commenced||31 March 1995 (Rules notified)|
|23 June 2014 (Rules amended, compensation enhanced) and 8 November 2013 (Sub-divisional vmcs and nominees)|
|4 March 2014 Ordinance (overhaul: new sections, chapters and schedules added)|
|Preventing atrocities against the members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes|
|Caste, Dalit, POA, SC/ST Act, Atrocities Act|
|Status: In force|