PIL alleges Maha govt's apathy towards dalits, HC seeks reply



Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Maharashtra Government to file an affidavit within three weeks informing whether it had forwarded reports to the Centre in the last five years on implementation of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in the state.

The direction was given by Justices Ranjana Desai and Vijaya Kapse-Tahilramani on a PIL filed by NGO National Dalit Movement for Justice, which alleged that the Act was not being implemented in Maharashtra.

Public Prosecutor Pandurang Pol informed the bench that a high-powered committee had been formed recently under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to oversee the implementation of the Act.

Pol further told the court that the file concerning appointment of a Nodal officer to oversee implementation of the Act had been referred to the Chief Minister and said within a fortnight a decision would be taken in this regard.

Counsel for the petitioner, Sanghraj Rupawate, alleged since many years the Government had not constituted a high- powered committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister to oversee the implementation of the Act. Besides, he said, nodal officer had not been appointed in accordance with the rules framed under the Act in 1995.

He said all the states had to submit reports every year on implementation of the Act to the Centre which tables the reports before the Parliament. However, the Maharashtra government had not followed this practice.

Rupawate said the PIL was based on 43 cases of atrocities committed on Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe members from various districts of Maharashtra.

The PIL brought to the notice of the High Court various gaps and negligence by the implementing authorities at different levels in effective implementation of Act.

According to the PIL, vigilance and monitoring committees set up under Rule 16 and 17 of the rules framed under the Act were not properly constituted and were not functioning at all in the state. The government was also not sending report to the Centre on March 31 every year as stipulated under the rules.

The PIL alleged that the state was not performing its specific responsibility in accordance with Rule 14 of the Act to review twice in a year the performance of prosecutors, consider reports received and investigations made in atrocity cases apart from ascertaining preventive steps taken by police and district magistrates and rehabilitation measures taken to help the victims.

The PIL further alleged that in many cases FIRs were not registered at all and, if registered, proper sections of the Act were not applied. Besides, the accused were also not arrested immediately.

The PIL contended that in special courts set up under the Act special public prosecutors were not appointed to conduct the trial.

PTI