The Tamil Nadu government is set to constitute special courts under section 14 of Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ ST) Act 1989 in 16 districts within the next four years after the Madras High Court had passed a direction on the issue two years ago. Out of the 16 districts, four districts are likely to have the special courts set up by the end of this year. Currently, six districts have these special courts.
The High Court in June 2015 had then asked the Registrar General to obtain information about the pendency of such courts and asked to make necessary recommendations.
The bench headed by then Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had also directed the state government to take “expeditious steps” to follow the recomendations while hearing a writ petition filed by an NGO advocating social change— CHANGEindia.
In 2012, when the writ petition was filed, the state had only four such special courts in Trichy, Thanjavur, Thirunelveli and Madurai. Later in 2015, Villupuram and Sivagangai districts had such courts upon the court’s insistence while hearing the case.
An RTI reply by the Additional Director-General of Police, Social Justice and Human Rights revealed that 28 out of the total of 32 districts were listed as atrocity-prone against Dalit communities by the state.
“It is a matter of consolation that the efforts made by CHANGEindia have now contributed in a small way to furthering the cause of social justice in Tamil Nadu,” A Narayanan, Director of the NGO said.
He added, “Subsequent to the Hon'ble High Court's direction, CHANGEindia has been sending representations to the Registrar General as well as to the various Departments of the Government reminding them of Hon'ble High Court direction.”
CHANGEIndia demanded the state government to provide other forms of support to atrocity-prone communities with Special Public Prosecutors with aptitude and at least seven years of experience.
It also called for the sensitisation of police officers at all levels, strengthening the legal aid apparatus, providing victim protection and ensuring speedy trial, relief and rehabilitation to those victims of caste violence and atrocities.
A total of 1,476 cases under the POA Act was registered in Tamil Nadu in 2016.