Crimes against S.Cs

Victims of violence

Print edition : April 15, 2016
The spurt in crimes against Scheduled Castes in recent years underscores the need for stronger laws and a quicker justice delivery mechanism.

THE eyes of the nation are once again on Tamil Nadu after the shocking attack on a couple in broad daylight that killed Shankar, a Dalit, and grievously injured his wife, Kausalya, who belongs to the Thevar caste. The brazen murder of Shankar, who was hacked to death on a busy street in Udumalpet in broad daylight by caste Hindus, has brought into focus the appalling trend of “honour killings” and the lack of systemic protection for members of Scheduled Castes.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2014 show that in Tamil Nadu, the number of cases of murder of S.Cs where the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was applied stood at 43, with 72 victims, while there were five victims in cases where the Act was not applied. This was a steep rise from 28 cases in 2013.

However, statistics for the whole country showed that in 2014, Tamil Nadu recorded fewer crimes against Dalits than any other State with an S.C. population of at least one crore, with the exception of West Bengal. Uttar Pradesh was the worst offender, with 8,075 crimes, followed by Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The top four States accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the 47,064 crimes committed against S.Cs in the country. Tamil Nadu’s rate of crime against S.C.s, at 10.7, was also much lower than these States and less than half the national figure of 23.4.

The rate of crime is defined as the total number of crimes committed against S.Cs per one lakh population of S.Cs. West Bengal recorded an extremely low rate of 0.7, a pointer to the strides it has made in assuring protection to the depressed classes. It must be noted that West Bengal has the second-highest population of S.Cs (2.15 crore) in the country after Uttar Pradesh (4.14 crore). Tamil Nadu stood fourth with a population of 1.44 crore.

Goa recorded the highest rate of crime in the country of 66.8 despite having an extremely low population of S.Cs, followed by Rajasthan (65.7), Andhra Pradesh (48.7) and Bihar (47.6).

Crimes against members of the S.C. communities registered an increase of 19.4 per cent over 2013. In the first 14 years of this century, the trend has been mixed: after hovering around 33,500 in the first two years, it dropped significantly in the next four years before beginning a steep ascent in 2007. The steepest increases have been in 2013 and 2014.

NCRB data also showed that the number of cases for trial in 2014 was 1,27,341, with the number of cases pending for trial at the end of the year at 1,08,659. This is a reflection of the enormous backlog in the criminal justice system and an indication of how strenuous the journey to obtain justice is for members of the oppressed communities. During the year, some 3,43,122 persons were under trial for crimes against S.Cs, while 69,374 persons were sent for trial.