‘Wilful negligence’ by public servants should be defined better in 24-year-old law

Dedicated fast track courts to try offences under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should be set up, the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council recommended on Tuesday, even as it suggested that “wilful negligence” by public servants be better defined in the 24-year-old law.

The NAC would like the Rules to the Act amended to ensure that the “quantum of relief and rehabilitation is enhanced, and.. is not calculated as a fixed amount but adjusted annually to inflation,” apart from being released expeditiously. It wants a new chapter with comprehensive sections dealing with the rights of victims and witnesses, including protection, included in the Act; a legislative framework, under this or another Act, “to cover such practices of discrimination including, but not restricted to, discrimination in educational institutions, in mid-day meals, in access to housing, employment, and public goods and services.”

Preventing Dalits and tribals from entering places of worship, imposing social boycott, and obstructing them from using community resources should also be made punishable offences, the NAC has recommended, while strongly urging the government to make provisions in the Act to ensure that cases are disposed of within three months of filing the charge sheet.

It wanted expansion of the scope of presumption whether the perpetrators knew that their victims were SCs or STs while committing the offence. Finally, it has recommended strengthening state accountability by clearly defining “wilful negligence” on the part of public servants.

Unique Identification Authority of India Chairman Nandan Nilekani made a presentation on the Aadhaar project and Direct Benefits Transfer to the NAC.