1. Short title, extent and commencement.—
Who does this law apply to?This law applies to every person in India, except in Jammu and Kashmir.
This section will define certain key terms that will be used repeatedly throughout the Act. Whenever these terms appear in this Act after this section, they will have the meanings that are explained here.
What is an atrocity?A long list of actions is provided in Section 3. If any of these actions are committed against a person belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST), it is an atrocity which is punished under this law.These actions include forcing an SC/ST member to eat a noxious substance, forcing her to vote in a certain way, or taking away her land by force.
Who is a dependent?This law directs the government to help victims of atrocities and their dependents in various ways. Dependents are family members of the victim, who receive support from her.
What is economic boycott?Economic boycott is if someone refuses to enter into business relations with a SC/ST member. This includes:
- Refusing to work with or refuse to hire an SC/ST member.
- Refusing to either provide a service to an SC/ST member, or not engaging her to perform a service.
- Changing the way a certain business transaction is normally done, because the person is an SC/ST member.
What are forest rights?In the Forest Rights Act, there is a list of 13 rights that all forest-dwellers enjoy, including the right to live in the forest, access common resources etc.
Who is a 'manual scavenger'?The Manual Scavengers Act, 2013 defines a manual scavenger as someone who manually handling human excreta from latrines, open drains or other open spaces.
Who is a public servant?
- The Indian Penal Code has a long list of persons who are public servants, such as people in government service, judges and military officers.
- If a person is called a public service in any other law, she will be considered a public servant under this law as well.
- If a person is acting in any official capacity under the Central or State Government, she will be a public servant under this law.
What is a Scheduled Caste and a Scheduled Tribe?According to the Constitution, the President issues a list of castes that are considered Scheduled Castes, for each state. This is done in consultation with the Governor of the state. A similar procedure is followed for Scheduled Tribes.
What is social boycott?Social boycott is when someone refuses to enter into a normal social interaction with a person, and tries to keep her separate from other groups.
Who is a victim?A victim is an SC/ST member who has suffered any kind of harm because of a crime committed under this Act. The harm can be mental or psychological as well as any kind of physical harm or loss of money. The relatives of such a victim are also considered to be victims under this law.
Who is a witness?If you know something about a crime that has been committed under this law, you are a witness. You might be required to give evidence before the police or in court.
Application of laws:Not all laws apply to all areas within India.
|...this Act mentions a certain law||...that law does not apply in a particular area||...a similar law in force in that area will be applied instead|
3. Punishments for offences of atrocities.—
What are the crimes under this law?
- This section punishes certain crimes against SC/ST members, which are listed below.
- No SC/ST member can be punished under this section.
- The following crimes have a minimum punishment of 6 months and a maximum of 5 years, plus fine:
These are also crimes, but have different punishments:
|It is a crime to force-feed an SC/ST member with any disgusting substance that is not fit for humans to eat, such as cowdung,|
| It is a crime to dump any disgusting substances (such as the bodies of dead animals, or excreta): |
|It is a crime to make an SC/ST member wear a garland of chappals, or make them walk around naked or semi-naked.|
| It is a crime to force an SC/ST member to do anything which is insulting to the dignity of a human being, such as: |
| It is a crime to illegally take over any land that is owned or controlled by, or allotted to any SC/ST member. The takeover is considered illegal if it is done |
| It is also a crime to similarly illegally deprive an SC/ST member of his property, or to prevent him from exercising his rights over any land. This includes: |
|It is a crime to make an SC/ST member do bonded labour. The exception will be if the government makes some kind of public service compulsory - in that case it will not be a crime.|
|It is a crime to force a SC/ST member to carry or dispose of a human or animal dead body.|
|It is crime to force an SC/ST member to do manual scavenging, or employ an SC/ST member to do manual scavenging.|
|Practices like devadasi are a crime - an SC/ST woman cannot be 'dedicated' to any god, idol or temple.|
| It is a crime to interfere with the voting rights of an SC/ST member. Specifically: |
|It is a crime to interfere with the work of an SC/ST member who is a panchayat member or holds office in a municipality. Force or intimidation cannot be used to prevent such a person from doing their work.|
|It is a crime to either hurt or boycott an SC/ST member.|
|If you commit a crime against an SC/ST member because she has voted in a certain way, that is punished under this section.|
|It is a crime to file a false case against an SC/ST member.|
|It is a crime to give false information to a government official, if it causes the official to harass an SC/ST member.|
|It is a crime to insult and humiliate an SC/ST member on purpose, if it is done in a place visible to the public.|
|It is a crime to abuse an SC/ST member using her caste name if it is done in a place visible to the public.|
|It is a crime to damage any object, such as a statue or picture of Dr. Ambedkar, which is important to members of SCs/STs.|
|It is a crime to say or publish anything that encourages hatred of SC/ST communities.|
|It is a crime to say or write anything that insults any late person who is important to the SC/ST community, such as a leader.|
|It is a crime to sexually touch a woman belonging to a SC/ST without her consent. It is also a crime to sexually harass a SC/ST woman.|
|If such a crime takes place, the woman's past history and actions shall not affect the outcome in any way.|
|It is a crime to spoil any water source that is usually used by SC/ST members.|
|It is a crime to block an SC/ST member from a public place where she has a right to go.|
|It is a crime to block an SC/ST member from a public place where she has a right to go.|
|It is a crime to force an SC/ST member to leave her home, unless it is done legally.|
| It is a crime to block an SC/ST member from: |
|It is a crime to accuse an SC/ST member of practicing witchcraft, and hurting them physically or mentally.|
|It is a crime to make a threat, or to actually practice social or economic boycott.|
|Making a false statement to the police, where:|
| ||Life imprisonment||Yes|
| ||Death sentence|
| ||Between 6 months and 7 years||Yes|
|Using fire or bombs to|
| ||6 months to 7 years||Yes|
| ||Life imprisonment||Yes|
|Committing a crime against an SC/ST member, which is punished under the IPC with ten years or more.||Life imprisonment||Yes|
|Committing a crime against an SC/ST member which is listed in Schedule to this Act.||As punished under the IPC||Yes|
|Protecting any person who has committed a crime under this Act||Same punishment as the crime which the person has committed|
|Any crime in this section, but by a government official||Minimum of 1 year, not six months.|
4. Punishment for neglect of duties.—
Can a government official be punished for ignoring his duty?If a government official (who is not an SC/ST member) ignores his duties under this law on purpose, he can be punished with six months to one year of jail time.An officer can only be charged if there has been an inquiry first that recommends it.These duties include:
- registering FIRs and complaints;
- reading out any statement made in a police station before getting a signature;
- giving copies of the statement to the person giving information;
- recording what a victim or witness of a crime has to say;
- investigating and filing the charge-sheet within 60 days of an FIR;
- preparing and translating documents correctly.
5. Enhanced punishment on subsequent conviction.—Whoever, having already been convicted of an offence under this Chapter is convicted for the second offence or any offence subsequent to the second offence, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to the punishment provided for that offence.
What if a person commits the same crime twice?If someone is found guilty for the second time for the same crime, the minimum punishment shall be 1 year, not six months.
6. Application of certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code.—Subject to the other provisions of this Act, the provisions of section 34, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VA, section 149 and Chapter XXIII of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), shall, so far as may be, apply for the purposes of this Act as they apply for the purposes of the Indian Penal Code.
This section says that most of general criminal law will apply in cases of atrocities as well.
7. Forfeiture of property of certain persons.—
What about a guilty person's property?If a person is guilty, apart from jail and fine, her property can also be confiscated.
8. Presumption as to offences.—In a prosecution for an offence under this Chapter, if it is proved that— (a) the accused rendered any financial assistance in relation to the offences committed by a person accused of, or reasonably suspected of, committing, an offence under this Chapter, the Special Court shall presume, unless the contrary is proved, that such person had abetted the offence; (b) a group of persons committed an offence under this Chapter and if it is proved that the offence committed was a sequel to any existing dispute regarding land or any other matter, it shall be presumed that the offence was committed in furtherance of the common intention or in prosecution of the common object; (c) the accused was having personal knowledge of the victim or his family, the Court shall presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim, unless the contrary is proved.
This section deals with certain legal assumptions that a court makes. For example, if the accused person personally knows the victim, the court will assume that he also knows the caste or tribe of the victim.
9. Conferment of powers.—
This section deals with some special administrative powers to enforce this Act.
10. Removal of person likely to commit offence.—
If the court thinks a person is likely to commit a crime under this law, it can order that the person move out of that area for up to three years. This is called externment.Example:Mukesh lives in Safinagar town, where caste tensions are high. He is from a dominant caste. Safinagar has been notified as an area where atrocities are likely to happen. He makes several threats against his neighbour, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste. Cases have been registered against him. The court, under this law, can order that Mukesh leave Safinagar for three years.The court must give reasons why Mukesh has been ordered to leave.Mukesh comes before the court to explain his situation, within 30 days. The court can decide to cancel the order, or change it.
11. Procedure on failure of person to remove himself from area and enter thereon after removal.—
If Mukesh does not obey the court order, he can be arrested. The punishment is up to 1 year jail time.If Mukesh obeys the order, the court can allow him come back to Safinagar for short periods, after signing a bond.Mukesh can only stay in Safinagar for the short period mentioned in the order, and must get fresh permission to visit again. If he disobeys he can be arrested.
12. Taking measurements and photographs, etc., of persons against whom order under section 10 is made.—
The court can order Mukesh to be photographed, and have his measurements taken. If he refuses, he can be forced. Once an order is cancelled, the photos and other records will have to be destroyed.
13. Penalty for non compliance of order under section 10.—Any person contravening an order of the Special Court made under section 10 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with fine.
If Mukesh disobeys the court order, he can be sent to jail for up to 1 year.
14. Special Court and Exclusive Special Court.—
This chapter of the law deals with setting up of special courts to deal with atrocities cases faster.
- Every State Government has to set up courts which only deals with atrocities cases under this law.
- Cases should be completed in 2 months, as far as possible, and hearings shall take place every day when witnesses are speaking.
- In a district where a lot of atrocities cases happen, a separate court will have to be set up.
- In districts where cases are not so common, the District Court can hear the case.
Example: Satish forces Naveen to eat cowdung. Trial starts against Satish.If he is given bail, the Government's lawyer (prosecutor) can appeal against the bail. He does not need special permission from the High Court to do so.He is found guilty by the Special Court. Satish has to appeal to the High Court within 90 days.Satish's mother fell seriously ill and his appeal could not be filed within the deadline. The High Court can still allow him file the appeal, since he had a good reason.However, if more than 180 days have passed, the appeal will not be allowed.The High Court should do its best to hear Satish's appeal within 3 months from when he filed it.
15. Special Public Prosecutor and Exclusive Public Prosecutor.—
The Government's lawyer, under this law, has to have minimum seven years' experience.
15A. Rights of victims and witnesses.—
If you are a victim or witness under this law, what are your rights?Let's understand these rights with the help of examples.
|Naveen has been forced to eat cowdung by Satish. Naveen belongs to a Scheduled Caste. Seema saw it happen. The government has to arrange for Naveen and Seema's protection.|
|Naveen is 80 years old - the government has a duty to give special care to Naveen.|
|Naveen and his wife have the right to know what is going on in his case.|
|Nitin took a photograph while Naveen was being forced to eat cowdung. Naveen can ask the court to order Nitin to come to court and submit the photograph.|
| Naveen can speak in court to the judge if Satish, the accused person: |
| Naveen can also speak: |
| During the trial, Naveen, the victim, and Seema, the witness, have the right to: |
|The court will control what sort of protection is being given to Naveen and Seema.|
| Naveen or Seema can ask the Court to: |
|In case of harassment, a case has to be filed and the court has to finish the case in 2 months.|
|If the police or government official is harassing Naveen or Seema, the court can order that the official stay away from them.|
|Naveen and Seema are still being harassed. The police have the duty to file an FIR and give them a copy.|
|Any trial under this law has to be video-recorded.|
|Ever State Government has to prepare a scheme for the victims and witnesses of atrocities.|
| The scheme should take care of the following things: |
|Victims like Naveen have the right to get help from lawyers, NGOs and social workers.|
16. Power of State Government to impose collective fine.—The provisions of section 10A of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (22 of 1955) shall, so far as may be, apply for the purposes of imposition and realisation of collective fine and for all other matters connected therewith under this Act.
The State Government can impose a fine on a village as a whole for committing atrocities.
17. Preventive action to be taken by the law and order machinery.—
If an area has high risk of atrocities, what can the government do?The District Magistrate or Deputy Superintendent can declare that the area is one where atrocities are likely to take place. After that, they can take a wide range of measures to ensure peace and order are maintained. This includes:
- making people sign bonds for good behavior;
- breaking up crowds using force; or
- taking urgent measures under Section 144, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 to prevent a danger or a nuisance.
18. Section 438 of the Code not to apply to persons committing an offence under the Act.—Nothing in section 438 of the Code shall apply in relation to any case involving the arrest of any person on an accusation of having committed an offence under this Act.
Can a person fearing arrest under this law get anticipatory bail?No.
19. Section 360 of the Code or the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act not to apply to persons guilty of an offence under the Act.—The provisions of section 360 of the Code and the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 (20 of 1958) shall not apply to any person above the age of eighteen years who is found guilty of having committed an offence under this Act.
Can a person guilty under this law get probation?Probation is when a guilty person is released instead of being sent to prison, after signing a bond for good behaviour. A person can get probation under general law if certain conditions are met. Under this law, however, probation is not allowed unless the guilty person is less than 18 years old.
20. Act to override other laws.—Save as otherwise provided in this Act, the provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force or any custom or usage or any instrument having effect by virtue of any such law.
If there is anything written in this law that goes against some other law, this law will apply.
21. Duty of Government to ensure effective implementation of the Act.—
What are the duties of the Government under this law?The government has to ensure this law is properly followed. Some of these measures are listed in this section.
22. Protection of action taken in good faith.—No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Central Government or against the State Government or any officer or authority of Government or any other person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act.
This is a standard section in many laws, which says that the government cannot be sued for doing anything under this law, as long as there was no bad intention.
23. Power to make rules.—
This is also a standard section, which gives the procedure for making rules under this law.
[See section 3(2)(va)]
|Section under the Indian Penal Code||Name of offence and punishment|
|120A||Definition of criminal conspiracy.|
|120B||Punishment of criminal conspiracy.|
|142||Being member of unlawful assembly.|
|143||Punishment for unlawful assembly.|
|144||Joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapon.|
|145||Joining or continuing in unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse.|
|147||Punishment for rioting.|
|148||Rioting, armed with deadly weapon.|
|217||Public servant disobeying direction of law with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture.|
|323||Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt.|
|324||Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means.|
|325||Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt.|
|326B||Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid.|
|332||Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty.|
|341||Punishment for wrongful restraint.|
|354||Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.|
|354A||Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment.|
|354B||Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe.|
|363||Punishment for kidnapping.|
|365||Kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person.|
|376B||Sexual intercourse by husband upon his wife during separation.|
|376C||Sexual intercourse by a person in authority.|
|447||Punishment for criminal trespass.|
|506||Punishment for criminal intimidation.|
|509||Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.|