National Press Release – to be released across India [Marathi version]
8 September 2016 – for immediate release
The law should punish all atrocities, not just against SC and ST communities, says Swarna Bharat Party President Sanjay Sonawani
Mr Sanjay Sonawani, President of the Swarna Bharat Party called for an urgent review of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 under which only atrocities against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are punished. Even SC/ST community members cannot use this law to seek redress against atrocities committed against them by members of their own community.
This law violates Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees every citizen that the laws shall apply equally to everyone. Lawmakers have also violated Article 35 while making a law that seeks to protect one section of India from others without providing constitutional remedies to the accused.
The implementation of this law has also been problematic. Sometimes the police have invoked this Act for civil issues, such as land disputes. There are reports of the misuse of the Act to humiliate innocent people, even to blackmail them. There are examples of intellectuals being threatened that a complaint will be lodged against them under the Act, merely for holding a particular view.
Bail, particularly anticipatory bail, is usually not permitted in cases under this Act, even for relatively minor matters. Bail should be a matter of Constitutional right, except in the most extreme cases. As a result of all this, this law has merely worsened social relations between communities. Atrocities against the Dalits continue unabated after 17 years of this law. This law is more of lip service to the Dalits than a genuine solution to their problems.
Mr Sonawani said that there are many other badly designed laws in India about which he will talk about in detail in due course. Such ill-thought out laws are being generated by populist governments as a knee-jerk response to outrage arising from bad implementation of existing laws. These governments are incapable of implementing existing laws, so they make more laws to hide their incompetence.
India doesn’t have a shortage of laws. India has a defunct governance system. SBP is committed to halting the atrocities against Dalits, but the Atrocities Act is not the way to do that. This Act which is ill-designed and gives rise to enmity between groups should be immediately reviewed. Mr Sonawani emphasised that SBP is not questioning welfare provisions for the SC and ST communities, but wants a uniform criminal code and reform of governance to ensure that all atrocities are brought to an end.
Equal treatment under the law requires that an atrocity against any citizen be punished, not just an atrocity against an SC or ST individual. Mr Sonawani said that all serious offences listed in the Atrocities Act should be included in the Indian Penal Code after such a review, so that these crimes can apply to everyone, regardless of caste.
The government must get out of running hotels and businesses, so it can focus on security and justice. It must implement the reforms detailed in SBP’s manifesto so that all criminal cases are fast tracked, not just a few. The whole country needs justice and peace. We need a functioning government.
He called upon the Modi government to immediately review all such unreasonable Acts, failing which SBP will consider filing Public Interest Litigation to test their constitutionality.
Notes for Editors
SBP is India’s only liberal party, committed to defending liberty and promoting prosperity.
Contacts: Sanjay Sonawani (Pune), National President, +91 9860991205
Vishal Singh (Bengaluru), National Vice President, +91 9920613669
Alok Kumar Singh (Ghaziabad), National Joint Secretary and President, UP State unit, +91 9999755334
Download the Word version of the press release.
Sanjay Sonawani’s video on this topic: