The Karnataka High Court on Monday issued notice to the state government on a petition filed seeking directions to ensure proper implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 ('PoA Act') and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 ('PoA Rules') in the state.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy said "We are dealing with an enactment of the year 1989, for protecting the person belonging to Scheduled caste/Scheduled Tribes and therefore it is the duty of state government to ensure that the said act of 1989 and the rules framed thereunder are implemented in its true letter and spirit."
The court has directed the state government to file its statement of objections by July 15, while hearing the petition filed by Parishishtha Jaathi/Parishishtha Pangadagala Melvicharane Mattu Balavardhana Sangha Karnataka (Committee for Monitoring and Strengthening SCs/STs in Karnataka).
Senior Advocate Jayna Kothari appearing for the petitioner argued that the provisions of the act are not effectively implemented in the state. Some of the requirements of the law such as the setting up of Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts for the trial of offences against SC/ST persons in districts where the rate of offences is high, have not been set up."
The plea states that there are no proper meetings being conducted by the State-level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee and District-level Vigilance and Monitoring Committees as per Rules 16 and 17 of the Rules. There is failure to adhere to time limits in investigation of atrocities and a failure to carry out periodic surveys of the implementation of the PoA Act and PoA Rules.
Relying on a newsreport, the plea states that despite the elaborate provisions contained in the PoA Act and PoA Rules, its implementation in Karnataka has been abysmal. The conviction rates in Karnataka have been extremely low. In 2014, while 1633 cases were registered under the PoA Act, there was not a single conviction and the conviction rate was 0%. This was despite the State standing third in the country in terms of the number of atrocity cases being registered.
The petition also cites the latest 2017 National Crime Records Bureau's ('NCRB') Crime Statistics Report. In which, Karnataka was the 7th ranked state in India in terms of the incidence of crimes against SCs. Further, Karnataka was the 5 th ranked state in India in terms of incidence of crimes against STs as per the 2017 data, to show there has been no effective implementation of the act and rules.
As regards setting up of special courts to try the cases under the act it is stated that Karnataka has 30 districts in total, and only 8 Exclusive Special Courts have been set up in the districts of Belagavi, Vijayapura, Kalaburgi, Kolar, Mysuru, Raichur, Ramanagar and Tumakuru and in the remaining districts, the Sessions Courts have been designated as Special Courts.
Stating that State Government is required to release annual reports on the implementation of the PoA Act and the last annual report it has released was only for the year 2016. After 2016, no Annual Reports on the PoA Act have been released.
The petition prays for directions to the respondents to effectively implement the POA Act and Rules and to monitor the implementation of the same in the state. Direct them to set up Exclusive Special Courts as stipulated under Section 14 of the PoA Act in atrocity prone districts and high-pendency districts of the State of Karnataka. Direct the respondents to conduct investigations in a timely manner in accordance with Rules 7(2) and 7(3) of the PoA Rules. To pay timely compensation and relief to the victims in accordance with Rules 12(4) of the PoA Rules.
The petition will be next heard on July 16.
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