The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday sought to know from the State Government whether it had constituted a high power State level committee supplemented by district and divisional level committees for assisting the Government in implementing the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Hearing a public interest litigation petition related to Uthapuram near here, a Division Bench of Justices D. Murugesan and S. Nagamuthu said that it was mandatory to constitute such committees under Rule 3 of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995. They directed the Additional Advocate General S. Ramasamy to file a counter affidavit by November 25 detailing the steps taken so far to implement the Rule.
"There cannot be a second opinion that a provision of law should be implemented. I shall verify with the Government and file a counter specifying the status of each of the eleven requirements to be fulfilled under Rule 3," the AAG said. Clause (vii) of Rule 3 states that every State Government should also constitute vigilance and monitoring committees to suggest effective measures to implement the Act.
The Rule basically requires the State Governments to identify areas where it had reasons to believe that atrocities might take place or there were apprehensions of reoccurrence of offences against the Dalits. After such identification, the District Magistrate or Superintendent of Police or any other officer concerned should be ordered to visit the areas and review the law and order situation.
Clause (iv) of the Rule empowered officials to seize illegal fire arms besides prohibiting illegal manufacture of such arms in the identified area. "If necessary, the State Government shall cancel the arms licences of the persons, not being member of the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, their near relations, servants or employees and family friends and get such arms deposited in the Government armoury," the Rule read.
Another clause authorised the officials to issue arms licences to the Dalits, if necessary, in order to ensure their safety. The Government was required to encourage and provide financial assistance to non governmental organisations (NGOs) to set up awareness centres besides organising workshops to educate the Dalits about their rights and the protection available to them under Central as well as State enactments.
The Rule also mandated the State Governments to review by the end of every quarter, the law and order situation in the identified area, the functioning of different committees constituted for the purpose, the performance of Special Public Prosecutors, Investigating Officers and others officers responsible for implementing the Act and conducting criminal cases registered under the Act.
In the instant case, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) had filed the PIL petition seeking a direction to the State to implement the Rule in the backdrop of long pending animosity between Dalits and Caste Hindus of Uthapuram. During the course of the arguments, Mr. Justice Murugesan said: "The Rule has to be implemented not only in this particular place, but throughout the State."