The government is planning to include under the Prevention of Atrocities Act offences that attract less than 10-year jail term, a move that would compound the punishment since offences under the Act are non-bailable and are tried under special courts. Presently, only crimes with more than 10-year term under IPC, with some exceptions, fall under the atrocities Act.
The 10-year bar had left serious violations like rape, kidnapping and grievous hurt out of the purview of the stringent law.
The inclusion of rape and other offences under the atrocities law would eliminate the possibility of police diluting the intensity of the crime by claiming that caste was not the ground for the offence.
According to sources, all the offences mentioned in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, being brought as part of beefing up laws on crimes against women post-Nirbhaya case, would also attract the atrocities law if the victim is a dalit.
Union social justice ministry is mulling changes to the atrocities law that were discussed by social justice minister Selja with state ministers on Wednesday. “We plan to bring the amendments in the budget session,” she said.
The atrocities Act will now include violations like criminal conspiracy with victim being dalit (Section 120), unlawful assembly to overawe dalits or rioting, disobeying a legal direction to save an accused in anti-dalit crime.
Wrongfully restraining a dalit (Section 341) or deterring a public servant from doing his duty (Section 353) would also attract action under the atrocities law.
Importantly, the Centre is looking to ease the burden on the victim to prove that his/her caste was the reason for being targetted. The police often refuse to register case under the atrocity law by claiming that caste was not the reason for its commission.
New offences that would qualify as anti-dalit crime will include garlanding with shoes and throwing waste at the door or premises. Also, stopping a dalit from entering common property resources like burial or cremation ground, using water bodies like river or well or tank, public conveyance or road.
The government is planning to increase compensation for victims under the atrocities law, a must in all crimes against dalits. Though the Centre had hiked the compensation amount in December 2011, the Centre says it was not enough. Importantly, the compensation will be linked to inflation and be revised annually.
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