A ruling by the Supreme Court of India, diluting the provisions related to anticipatory bail and immediate arrest under the SCs and STs (PoA) Act, has sparked mass protest. The protesters have been met with police brutality leading to injuries and the death of several protesters.

IDSN is greatly concerned over the rulings weakening of the SC/ST Act, meant to protect victims of caste atrocities, and strongly condemns any use of force against peaceful protesters. The ruling makes it possible to release the accused on anticipatory bail, which the SC/ST Act specifies should not be possible because the accused may use their social caste dominance to yield power and threaten the victim in order to have the charges dropped.

The National Coalition for Strengthening SCs and STs (PoA) Act (NCSPA), a platform of more than 500 Dalits and Adivasis civil society organisations, communities, leaders and activists has expressed serious concern over the ruling. The organisation says that the ruling dilutes the very purpose of the progressive legislation, a legislation meant to protect the marginalized communities from caste based atrocities and discrimination.

The NCSPA, which includes several IDSN member organisations, has issued a press release on the court ruling and why it should be overturned. The press release also explains that this ruling comes despite the fact that crimes and atrocities committed against Dalits and Adivasis have been rising at a disturbing rate the past many years while the conviction rate in cases tried under the SC/ST Act continues to be dismally low.

“We are disturbed by this systemic pattern of impunity by the Judiciary. This has created a climate of fear and oppression in the country, and continually violates fundamental human and constitutional rights of Dalits and Adivasis,” the press release states.

“We stand in support of the victims and witnesses and call upon the Judiciary and the Central government to review the Judgment on a priority basis and desist those, from such disgraceful attempts of suppressing the voice of Dalits to access legal remedies.”

In addition to the press release the NCSPA have also produced an observation on the ruling and held several meetings focusing on how to challenge the ruling to get it overturned.

We will follow developments closely.

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Milestone act amending India’s caste atrocity legislation passed (2016)