It is a crime to interfere with the voting rights of members of SCs or STs. If you do any of the following, you will be punished with imprisonment anywhere between 6 months and 5 years along with a fine:
- Force them to vote in a certain way.
- Stop them from standing for elections.
- Stop them from proposing a candidate, or seconding the nomination of another SC/ST candidate.
- Punish them for voting a certain way.
It is also a crime to interfere with the work of an SC/ST member who is a Panchayat member or holds office in a municipality. Force or intimidation cannot be used to prevent such a person from doing their work.
It is illegal to take over any land that is owned or controlled by, or allotted to any SC/ST member as well as forcing an SC/ST member to leave her home unless it is done legally.
The takeover of the property is considered illegal if it is done
- without the agreement of the victim, or
- by threatening her or someone connected to her, or
- by making false records.
It is also a crime to similarly illegally deprive an SC/ST member of his property or to prevent him from exercising his rights over any land. This includes:
- Blocking an SC/ST member from accessing any forest rights under the Forest Rights Act.
- Blocking rights to any water source or irrigation source.
- Destroying or taking away crops.
You can face imprisonment of a term of 6 months to 7 years for using fire or bombs to damage homes, religious places and/or property belonging to SC/ST members. You can report such crimes.
Any of the following crimes committed against members of SC/ST are referred to as atrocities in law. The punishment for these acts is imprisonment between 6 months and 5 years, along with a fine.
- Hurting or boycotting an SC/ST member
- Force-feeding an SC/ST member with any disgusting substance that is not fit for humans to eat, such as cow dung, human excreta etc.
- Dumping any disgusting substances (such as the bodies of dead animals, or excreta) inside or at the gate of a place where SC/ST members live, or in a neighbourhood of an SC/ST member, but only if it is done to insult or annoy her in some way.
- Making an SC/ST member wear a garland of chappals, or making them walk around naked or semi-naked.
- Forcing an SC/ST member to do anything which is insulting to the dignity of a human being, such as making them undress, forcing them to shave his head or his moustache or forcing them to paint his face.
- Making an SC/ST member do bonded labour. The exception will be if the government makes some kind of public service compulsory – in that case, it will not be a crime.
- Forcing an SC/ST member to carry or dispose of a human or animal dead body.
- Forcing an SC/ST member to do manual scavenging, or employing an SC/ST member to do manual scavenging.
- Insulting and humiliating an SC/ST member on purpose, if it is done in a place visible to the public.
- Abusing an SC/ST member using her caste name if it is done in a place visible to the public.
- Damage any object, such as a statue or picture of Dr Ambedkar, which is important to members of SCs/STs.
- Say or publish anything that encourages hatred of SC/ST communities.
- Say or write anything that insults any late person who is important to the SC/ST community, such as a leader.
- Spoiling any water source that is usually used by SC/ST members.
- Blocking an SC/ST member from a public place where she has a right to go.
- Blocking an SC/ST member from:
- Using any common public area or resource such as water bodies, taps, wells, cremation grounds etc.
- Riding a horse or a vehicle or carrying out a procession.
- Entering into a religious place or participating in a religious ceremony, that is open to the public.
- Entering a public place like a school, hospital or cinema hall.
- Carrying on any business or job.
- Accusing an SC/ST member of practising witchcraft, and hurting them physically or mentally.
- Making a threat, or actually excluding them socially or economically.
It is a crime to sexually touch a woman belonging to an SC/ST without her consent. It is also a crime to sexually harass an SC/ST woman. If such a crime takes place, the woman’s past history and actions shall not affect the outcome in any way. Practices like devadasi are also illegal.
The law designates certain areas as tribal areas or scheduled areas. If any person is likely to commit crimes or atrocities against members of SCs and STs in such areas, the Special Courts can have them removed from there.
However, the Special Court must list down the grounds for taking such an action against anybody.
Period of Removal Order
The order of removal can be made for a period up to 3 years. The person against whom such an order is made can request the Special Court to modify or revoke the removal order within 30 days of the passing of the order.
Disobeying Removal Order
If the person against whom a removal order is passed either fails to remove himself from the area or after being removed returns to the area without proper permission, the Special Court can have him arrested and removed to police custody outside the specified area. The penalty for disobeying the removal order is imprisonment up to 1 year and a fine.
Special Permission to Enter Specified Area
The person who has been removed from the area can apply to the Special Court to enter that place for a limited period of time. If they are granted such permission, it will be conditional. The Court can even ask the person to execute a bond (with or without surety) to ensure the conditions mentioned in the permission are followed.
The Special Court has the power to revoke this permission at any time. If the permission has expired or been revoked, fresh permission needs to be taken for re-entry.
If any of the conditions of the permission are violated, the person can be arrested by the police and be taken to the police station outside the tribal or scheduled area.
Filing a false case against an SC/ST member as well as giving false information to a government official that causes the official to harass an SC/ST member are both illegal. For example, if you go to the police and falsely accuse an SC/ST member for a crime, you may be punished.
If an SC/ST member is falsely accused of:
- A crime punishable by death, you will face life imprisonment and a fine.
- A false statement which causes the SC/ST member to be given the death penalty, you may face the death sentence.
- A crime punishable with 7 years or more of imprisonment, you will face imprisonment of a term of 6 months to 7 years.
If a crime has been committed against you owing to your identity as member of the Scheduled castes or scheduled tribes, you can approach any of these places to get immediate relief:
You can either call 100 or visit a police station to report the incident. The police will note down your details and if needed arrive at your location to provide you immediate help. They will write down your information and details of the incident in an FIR and provide you with a copy of it, free of cost.
National Commission for Scheduled Castes
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes is a body set up under the Constitution to investigate and monitor the interests of the Scheduled Castes. They also have the power to inquire into specific complaints in cases where members of Scheduled Castes are deprived of their rights. You can either call their toll free helpline or visit their website for more information.
Toll Free Number: 1800 1800 345
Contact details of State Commissions: http://ncsc.nic.in/contactus
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
Like the NCSC, there exists a National Commission for Scheduled Tribes as well. They have the power to investigate into complaints registered for atrocities committed against the members of Scheduled Tribes.
Contact information for the National Commission as well as its regional offices can be found here: https://ncst.nic.in/content/contact-us
SC/ST Protection Cell
SC/ST Protection Cells have been set up in different States and Union Territories across India. The head of these cells is usually a high ranking police officer of the State or UT, like the Inspector General of police or the Additional Director General of Police. If you want to approach such a cell in your state, take the help of the nearest police station.
If you are being forced to work as a manual scavenger or know someone who is being forced, please complain to the police or the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis. Please know that the practice of manual scavenging is prohibited under law. For more information please read this.
This special law guarantees certain rights to the victims, their dependents and those acting as witness to the complaints filed under this law. These rights are:
Protection from violence
- Victims, their dependents and witnesses must be protected from any kind of intimidation, coercion, inducement, violence or even threats of violence.
- The investigation officer or the Station House Officer must record the complaint of a victim, informant or witnesses by way of an FIR if they are being intimidated, coerced, induced, harassed or even threatened with violence. A copy of the FIR must be given to them free of cost.
Right to be treated with Dignity
- Victims should be treated with fairness, respect and dignity. If there are any special needs of victims owing to their age, gender or educational disadvantage, the same must be given due regard.
Rights in Court
- The Special Public Prosecutor or the government officials must inform the victims or their dependents of any court proceedings about to take place under this law. They have a right to reasonable, accurate and timely notice of any court proceedings, even when the accused person applies for bail.
- The victims or their dependents have the right to request production of documents, materials or witnesses from other parties by making a request to the Special Court.
- Victims and their dependents have a right to be heard in proceedings related to the bail, discharge, release, parole, conviction or sentence of the accused person. They also have a right to make written submissions on conviction, acquittal or sentencing of the accused person.
- All court proceedings under this law must be video recorded.
- The Special Court must provide the victim, their dependent, witnesses or informants:
- Complete protection to ensure delivery of justice
- Travelling and maintenance expenses during investigation, inquiry and trial
- Socio-economic rehabilitation during investigation, inquiry and trial
- Either the Special Public Prosecutor or the victims, their dependents, witnesses and informants can make an application to the Special Court to:
- Conceal their names and addresses of the witnesses in the orders, judgements or any records of the case that are publicly available.
- Issue directions to not disclose the identity and address of the witnesses.
- Take immediate action on a complaint relating to the harassment of a victim, informant or witness and if necessary pass orders for protection on the same day.
The law requires measures to be taken by the District administration to provide relief and ensure rehabilitation of members of SCs or STs who have been victims of atrocities and crimes mentioned under this special law. An assessment of the situation or damages will be done by the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police before the relief can be provided.
These immediate relief measures include making arrangements in cash and/or kind to victims, their family members and dependents. It should also include relief in the form of food, water, clothing, shelter, medical aid, transport facilities and any other essential items necessary for human beings. The law also provides for norms in terms of the relief amount for state governments to follow. These norms can be found in the Schedule attached to these Rules.
In cases of death, injury to persons or damage to property, either the victims or their dependents will have an additional right to claim compensation.
Such relief can be provided by either the District Magistrate, Sub-divisional Magistrate or Executive Magistrate.
If a crime under this special law committed against a member of the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe groups has been reported to the police, the investigation for this must be done by a police officer who is at the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police or above.
As per the law, the DSP must complete his investigation on top priority within thirty days. The report from this investigation must be submitted to the Superintendent of the Police, who will further submit it to the Director-General of Police of that State.