Telanganaâ€™s ad hoc State Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (SVMC), in its review meeting held on January 6 this year, noted that the conviction rate for crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is "poor". The Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), who is a member of the ad hoc committee, also said that there was a marginal rise of 8% in the cases registered between January-August 2020 and the same period in 2019. As of August 2020, a total of 5,090 cases of crimes against Dalits and Adivasis are still pending in the court, said the report, which analysed the implementation of the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. In fact the ADGP in the report said that "when compared to the national average our conviction rate is poor."
According to the report, 4,099 cases were officially recorded in 2018, 5,099 cases in 2019, and 5,093 cases in 2020 (up to August). In 2018, 1,264 new cases were registered. The state reported 1,153 news cases in 2019 and 167 new cases in (till August) 2020.
A closer look shows that the number of cases disposed of by the special courts each year is critically low. For example, of the 4,099 cases officially reported in 2018, as few as 153 cases were disposed of that year. In 2019, only 173 out of 5,099 cases were disposed of. In 2020, of the 5,093 cases (till August), only three were disposed of. Strikingly, the conviction rate among the cases disposed of by the special court, too, is abysmal â€” 14.38% in 2018; 5.20% in 2019; and 0% in 2020.
Among other crimes against SCs and STs reported between 2019 and 2021 (till November), there was a significant increase in atrocities against women from SC and ST communities. From 261 rape cases in 2019, it rose to 318 in 2020 and 325 in 2021. There were a considerable number of cases charged under section 319 (Hurt) of the Indian Penal Code too â€” 279 (2019), 369 (2020), and 301 (till November 2021).
The anti-caste activists in the state ascribed the present situation to the Telangana governmentâ€™s dereliction of duty in preventing crimes against the oppressed communities. The activists are demanding the immediate constitution of SVMC, instead of the present ad hoc committee, to implement the provisions under the SC/ST Act.
Representatives of various anti-caste organisations participating in a round-table conference in Hyderabad to highlight the plight of Dalits and Adivasis
Ideally, the chairman of the 24-member State Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (SVMC) should be the Chief Minister of the state, while the Home Minister, Finance Minister, SC and ST Welfare Ministers should be the advisors. The committee should also constitute all Members of Parliament, Members of Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council belonging to the SC and ST community.
However, since the stateâ€™s formation in June 2014, none of this was implemented, which fundamentally means that the Telangana state is violating SC/ST (POA) Act, activists pointed out. The MPs were also not elected at the time.
In 2016, the state had instead formed an ad hoc committee with the Schedule Development Minister G Jagadish Reddy as its chairman.
And though it has been more than five years since the ad hoc committee was formed, it has been continuing without any change of leadership, where the Minister of Scheduled Castes Development is presiding over the review meetings against the rules, the agitating activists complained.
Demand for exclusive special courts for SCs, STs
According to the latest report of the Committee, the acquittal rates were higher than the conviction rates.
*Source: Report by Adhoc State Level High Power Vigilance and Monitoring Committee
The overwhelming number of pending cases are the result of the lack of adequate exclusive special courts meant for SCs and STs, pointed out Battula Ram Prasad, the Telangana president of Mala Welfare Association, a Dalit welfare association.
â€śWe demand exclusive special courts in all the 33 Telangana districts so that the cases at least go on trial. So far, nearly 6,000 cases are pending because the courts meant for these cases are taking up other cases as well. The special SC and ST courts are existing in the erstwhile 10 districts. We want the Telangana government to create them in all the 33 districts and ensure justice to the victims,â€ť Ram Prasad said.
The Additional Director General of Policeâ€™s report to the committee also suggested the same. In 2020, the filing of charge sheets was significantly less than the First Information Reports (FIRs), which is just 5.9 % of the total number of cases registered, the report said. In the last three years, the government has paid a total of Rs 54,61,04, 819 to the victims as monetary relief.
â€śThe crimes against SCs and STs are increasing in the state. It reflects the governmentâ€™s neglect. If this situation has to improve, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar should take reins of the Committee and ensure that justice is delivered to the victims,â€ť Ram Prasad said.
He also alleged that the meetings of the District Vigilance Monitoring Committee (DVMC) are also not taking place regularly.
According to rules, while the SVMC should meet at least twice (in the months of January and July), the DVMC, chaired by the District Collector, should meet quarterly.
The SVMC report recommended the same, which would help them in disposing of the cases much earlier, and in the effective implementation of the Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989. The Committee also recommended organising an awareness campaign about the provisions of the SC, ST Atrocity Act, and Sub-Inspectors visiting â€śatrocity-prone villagesâ€ť along with Mandal Revenue Officers and Mandal Development Officers to see that the provisions are implemented.