Modi govt expands rules for better compensation to Dalit rape victims
The Modi government has introduced measures to enable Dalits and tribals to seek state compensation for “unnatural offences”, even as it awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on a review petition over dilution of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
So far, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act defined sexual offences to include rape and gang rape. The government, under amendments notified in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act rules has expanded the definition of sexual offences against SC and ST persons to “rape, unnatural offences and gang rape”. The amendment has been brought in the offences as spelt out for compensation under the annexure norms of relief.
A senior official of the ministry of social justice and empowerment told ET, Since the offence was not specified, Dalit victims or their families could not seek relief under SC/ST Act. Now this would be an additional help for the poorest of the poor. Another rule has been inserted to bolster protection to victims of acid attacks. So far, the rule spelt out voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, without spelling out grievous hurt. Now, the new rule says, The relief provided to the victim of the atrocity or his/her dependent under sub-rule (4) in respect of death, or injury or rape, or gang rape, or unnatural offences, or voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, or voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, etc., or damage to property shall be in addition to any other right to claim compensation.
The move follows internal criticism by BJP’s own parliamentarians and alliance partners that the government should have been aggressive in representing facts before the Supreme Court.
Alleging rampant misuse of the Act, the top court had, on March 20, banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. Before arresting a public servant under the Act, a preliminary probe by an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent is a must, the court had said.
A bench comprising Justice Adarsh Goel and Justice UU Lalit had also removed the restrictions on granting anticipatory bail, and imposing a condition that a public servant could be prosecuted only after obtaining permission from the higher authorities.