How to Protect Yourself from False Accusations Under the SC/ST Atrocity Act

Law
16-Apr-2024
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The SC/ST Atrocity Act, also known as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, is a crucial piece of law created to protect the rights and dignity of underprivileged people in India. This extensive legal framework was enacted to address and prevent prejudice and atrocities against Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Scheduled Castes (SC). The Act has several different measures designed to fight different types of violence, injustice, and prejudice that the SC and ST populations have to deal with.

How People Misuse The SC/ST Act?

Because of the harsh caste system that is still in place in our nation, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, of 1989 was passed to stop and prevent the atrocities that these weaker members of society endure. Regretfully, information gathered over the last few years indicates that this Act is being exploited to harass individuals or achieve nefarious goals.

A study carried out in 2016 revealed that out of the 11060 instances that were looked at under this Act, 5347 of them were fraudulent. In certain instances, even the nation's courts have expressed worry over this issue of Act abuse.

The misuse of the SC/ST Atrocity Act can occur in various ways, including:

  • False accusations: Individuals may falsely accuse others of committing atrocities against SC/ST members for personal vendettas, disputes, or other motives.\
  • Extortion: Some individuals may misuse the Act to extort money or other benefits from others by threatening to file false cases under the Act.

What can be done if the Act is being misused?

A person who has been wrongly charged under the SC/ST Act may pursue certain legal measures from the judiciary, even if there is no explicit provision under the legislation for someone who has been the victim of the Act's exploitation for certain nefarious purposes. A person can file a writ petition and claim that his right to life and liberty, as protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, has been violated to make their way to the high courts and the Supreme Court.

In addition, the individual who has been unfairly accused has the option to counter the complaint to the SC-ST member who made the false accusations against them. Although anticipatory bail is not mentioned in the Act for violations under the SC-ST Act, the accused has been granted anticipatory bail in several recent decisions by the Supreme Court and the High Courts in situations involving false SC-ST allegations. A person who has been wrongfully accused may also seek redress by seeking refuge under the Indian Penal Code's defamation provisions. For more information on the procedure, check out our guide on initiating a defamation case.

Can FIR Under The SC/ST Act Be Quashed?

First Information Reports (FIRs) submitted in accordance with the SC/ST Atrocity Act may be quashed; however, this is up for legal discussion and interpretation. Though the SC/ST Atrocity Act is a specific statute created to defend the rights of marginalized people and prevent atrocities against them, it is theoretically conceivable to seek the quashing of an FIR under certain conditions. As a result, while considering applications to dismiss FIRs issued by this Act, courts often exercise caution.

When there are abnormalities in the procedure, when there is insufficient proof, or when the claims are shown to be unfounded or frivolous, the FIRs are usually quashed. Courts may, however, examine these petitions more closely due to the delicate nature of cases under the SC/ST Atrocity Act and the legislative intent behind its establishment. They frequently place a high priority on defending the rights and interests of SC/ST people as well as their communities, making sure that atrocities are adequately handled and justice is done.

The judge has the last say over whether to dismiss an FIR under the SC/ST Atrocity Act, and this judgment is based on the particular facts and circumstances of each case. People who are looking for this kind of relief must speak with legal professionals who are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of this particular field of law.

How To Counter Fake Cases Of Atrocity?

The question of the improper use of anti-atrocity statutes has been heard by Indian courts on several occasions. Individuals frequently utilize it as a means of achieving their hidden agendas, such as settling political or financial conflicts or using it as a kind of blackmail. It may be observed that via widespread misuse with an indirect goal of gratifying entrenched interests, as the Apex Court correctly noted in the Mahajan case. However, the Parliament has said categorically that it would not be creating any safeguards or laws to stop this misuse. The parliament declares that it will repeal the Act in its entirety, for which it was passed.

Nonetheless, it is impossible to overlook the current abuse of the legislation. Strict legislation must be passed to stop this usage. To stop this problem, a clause requiring a formal preliminary investigation can be established. In addition, anticipatory bail has to be made necessary, as the Mahajan ruling did. Later on, though, this was changed back. It is imperative to ensure that the Act does not serve as a means of exploiting the perception of non-SC-STs. Proper guidelines for the arrest of the guilty should also be established to avoid the arrest of innocent persons.

Case Studies And The Supreme Court Judgement On Misuse Of SC/ST Act?

Here are case studies and Supreme Court judgments where it was found that the accused had been falsely trapped in the case, but was innocent.

The Case Of X v. State of Kerala and Anr. (2022)

 concerned the accused's purported use of the complainant's caste name in public, since they were a member of the scheduled caste community. When the complainant went to the Valappad Service Co-operative Bank to pay loan interest, the accused—a non-SC-ST person—was accused of verbally abusing her. The SC/ST Act's Section 3(1)(s) was utilized to book the accused. The Kerala High Court considered whether the accused should be given bail and if the charges qualified as a case under the SC-ST Act. The court voiced worry about the misuse of anti-atrocity statutes, noting the potential for erroneous connotations, particularly in situations where there was a history of enmity between the parties. The court granted pre-arrest bail to the accused despite noting the seriousness of the situation, stressing the necessity to protect against unfounded allegations while maintaining justice.

In Jawed Khan v. State of Chhattisgarh (2022),

 the complainant, a panchayat secretary, claimed that the accused had threatened and verbally abused her. The accused was charged under many provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the SC-ST Act. The defendant alleged that unconnected issues led to false inferences. In light of the situation, the Chhattisgarh High Court granted the accused anticipatory bail. The court emphasized that it might issue bail in cases where the offenses seemed to be an abuse of the law, emphasizing the need to avoid unfair outcomes that could result from the incorrect application or interpretation of the law.

Patan Jamal Vali v. The State of Andhra Pradesh, 2021 SCC Online SC 343

Though in this case, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of the accused under the SC/ST PoA Act and held that the case of rape of a Dalit, blind woman should be seen from an intersectional perspective. It held that when the identity of a woman intersects with her caste, class, religion, disability, or sexual orientation, multiple sources of oppression operate cumulatively to produce a specific experience of subordination by the victim that cannot be segregated. It also laid down directions for the training of judges, police, and prosecutors to make the criminal justice system responsive to women with disabilities facing sexual assault.

Asharfi v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2018) 1 SCC 742

Though in this case, the Court did not find evidence that the accused had committed rape on the ground that the victim belonged to Scheduled Caste, the Court held that the Amendment of Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act by Amendment Act 1 of 2016 was brought about on 26.1.2016. The Supreme Court held that if after 26.01.2016 (i.e. the day on which the amendment came into effect), an offense under the IPC which is punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more is committed upon a victim who belongs to the SC/ST community, the mere knowledge of the Accused that the person upon whom the offence is committed belongs to the SC/ST community suffices to bring home the charge Under Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

Prathvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India and Ors. (2020) 4 SCC 727

The Supreme Court held that Section 438 of the Cr.P.C. will not apply to cases under the SC/ST PoA Act. However, if the complaint does not make out a prima facie case for applicability of the provisions of the said Act, the bar created by section 18 and section 18-A (i) shall not apply.

Justice Ravindra Bhat in his separate concurring judgment held that while considering any application seeking pre-arrest bail, the High Court has to balance two interests i.e. that the power is not so used as to convert the jurisdiction into that under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code, but that it is used sparingly and such orders made in very exceptional cases where no prima facie offense is made out as shown in the FIR, and further also that if such orders are not made in those classes of cases, the result would inevitably be a miscarriage of justice or abuse of process of law.

National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. (2017) 2 SCC 432

In this case, the Court observed that the constitutional goal of equality for all citizens of the country could be achieved only if the rights of SCs/STs were protected. However, while noting the indifferent attitude of the State authorities and their failure to comply with the provisions of the PoA Act and Rules, it passed only a simple direction to the State Government(s) “…to strictly enforce the provisions of the Act… The National Commissions are also directed to discharge their duties to protect the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The National Legal Services Authority is requested to formulate appropriate schemes to spread awareness and provide free legal aid to members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”

Conclusion

protecting oneself from false accusations under the SC/ST Atrocity Act requires understanding the law, seeking legal advice from a lawyer when needed, and staying vigilant against discrimination. By staying informed and advocating for fairness, we can ensure that justice prevails while upholding the rights of all individuals.

References:

  1. SC/ST Atrocity Act: A Complete Guide