The Karnataka High Court has sought a clarification from the State Government on why there has been delay in investigating and filing of charge sheet in offences registered under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
In the details provided to the court by the state government it is indicated that out of 35,091 cases registered under the Act, between the year 2015 to 2019, charge sheets have been filed in 6451 cases.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi said "Rule 7 (2) provides that charge sheet shall be filed within a period of 60 days. The state shall clarify whether the investigating officers have submitted any explanation for delay in investigation. The State government will have to take a call why there is a gross delay in filing charge sheets."
To address the issue of delay in investigation and large number of acquittals, the court has suggested the state government conduct regular training courses for investigating officers and Public prosecutors appointed under the Atrocities Act. The bench said "State will place on record details of training programs organized for them. Perhaps this will be one step which will ensure that the investigation and trials are conducted in a better fashion."
The bench has also called for a report from the Registrar General of the High Court on the status of the proposal submitted to it for setting up additional special courts. The Registrar General will also state the vacancy position in the cadre of district judges and steps taken to fill the vacancies. The court suggested it to issue a circular to all special courts under the Atrocities Act, inviting attention of judicial officers to the timelines fixed for speedy trial under the Atrocities Act, especially section 14, thereof. The report to be submitted will also state if any training workshop is being conducted for judicial officers who are in-charge of courts under the Atrocities Act.
The bench gave the direction while hearing a petition public interest litigation filed by Parishishtha Jaathi/Parishishtha Pangadagala Melvicharane Mattu Balavardhana Sangha Karnataka (Committee for Monitoring and Strengthening SCs/STs in Karnataka), seeking directions to ensure proper implementation of the Act and Rules in the state.
It noted that "This is not an adversarial litigation. Judicial notice will have to be taken of the fact that even several years after the Constitution is adopted and after the Atrocities Act came into force in the year 1989, there are several cases happening across the country of Atrocities within the meaning of Section 3 of Atrocities act. Therefore, it is all the more necessary for the state to implement provision of this Atrocities Act and said rules. Entire machinery for ensuring implementation in its true letter and spirit has been provided under the Act and said rules the only question is of activating the said machinery, for optimum results."
The court has also asked the state to ensure that meetings of the district level vigilance and monitoring committees constituted under Rule 17 and Sub division level vigilance and monitoring committees are held at least once in every three months.
It has further directed the state government to place on record data regarding number of meetings held of the State Level Vigilance and Monitoring committee, constituted as per Rule 16. Copies of the minutes of the meeting of meetings held during the last two year shall be placed on record for court perusal.
As regards effective implementation of Rule 12 (4), which requires the District Magistrate or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate to provide immediate relief in cash or in kind or both to the victims of atrocity, their family members and dependents. The bench has asked the State government to place particulars on record showing compliance of the said rule. Further, the contingency plan as stipulated under Rule 15 is to be placed on record of the court.
The compliance reports by the state government and the Registrar General have to be submitted to the court in four weeks time. The bench will next year the case on October 15.
The plea 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.