You are here: Home » Specials » Data Stories » Current Affairs
Business Standard

Misuse of a law: Is Maharashtra the worst offender?

The Marathas are not asking for the law to be scrapped - only that it be modified

Aditi Phadnis 

Pattern of violence reported under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989
Pattern of violence reported under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989

In July, a 14-year-old Maratha girl was raped and murdered allegedly by Dalit youth, in Kopardi, a village in Maharashtra's Ahmadnagar district. The Maratha community, which constitutes around 30 per cent of Maharashtra's population, was agitated. Thousands of people came out spontaneously in to protest the crime and they demanded death penalty for the culprits. Since then, the Marathas have been organising silent marches in all districts of the state and the plan is to bring 10 million people to Mumbai after Diwali to press for modification of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

has a more assertive Dalit population than, say, Bihar. The Act is draconian. Only in the rarest of rare cases has relief been granted by courts in in cases where the Act has been applied.

Sometimes, the Act has been misused. "In any fight of savarnas (forward caste), there is a misuse of laws by Most of the time, used to file cases under the against others. The Act should not be misused against savarnas - this is what we want," said Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra's tallest Maratha leader. He went on to add: "Wrong use of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is terrible, as it could result in social tension."

Misuse of a law: Is Maharashtra the worst offender?
However, data suggest fewer people in take recourse to the law, which is seen as protecting the rights of SC and ST citizens than elsewhere in the country. Maharashtra's contribution to overall crimes against Dalits under this law is lower than most other Indian states. If a law meant to protect Dalits is only used sparingly, can it really be misused?

The Marathas are not asking for the law to be scrapped - only that it be modified. The state government has not indicated what it is going to do.

First Published: Mon, October 31 2016. 23:48 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU