New Delhi: There is an urgent need to amend the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to protect Dalits and tribals, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Kumari Selja said here Wednesday.
"We are trying our best to plug loopholes in the draft amendment of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. We are in the last stage of consultation with state governments and union territories. We hope to get the bill introduced in this budget session," Selja said.
The minister was addressing representatives from various state governments, union territories and national commissions for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and safai karamcharis who had gathered in the city to deliberate on the amendments to the SC/ST (PoA) Act.
"Despite several measures taken and earnest efforts made, it is ironical that the atrocities against members of the SC and ST communities continue unabated. It is a matter of deep concern," Selja said.
Referring the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2011 statistics, the minister said that 39,401 cases were registered by police under the SC/ST Act, and around 93 percent of these cases were from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Accepting that certain lacunae persist in the 23-year-old act, Selja said: "While there are certain weaknesses in the PoA Act, these should not be looked as the reasons for its poor implementation."
"This calls for an assessment whether the existing provisions of the act fulfil its objectives."
Noting that certain suggestions on amendments were received from the central ministries and state governments, she said more comprehensive review of certain sections of the act was required.
"The major problems faced by Dalits and tribals are non-registration of cases, delay in investigations, filing charge-sheets, delay in trial leading to high rate of pendency and low disposal of cases," a representative of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis said.
According to the National Coalition for Strengthening SCs and STs (PoA) Act, a study conducted by a group of organisations working for Dalits and Scheduled Tribes` rights found that every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered and 11 Dailts are beaten up.