A Delhi court has expressed concern over rising incidents of misuse of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to settle personal scores and recommended that the final report in such cases be examined at a higher level before it is filed.
The court's observations came while discharging nine members of a family, including five women, from charges under the Act for allegedly using abusive words against their tenants who belonged to the Scheduled Caste category.
"Unfortunately, one comes across growing instances of cases where the provisions of this Act have not so much been invoked for the betterment of those to whom it seeks to protect, than by those who want to settle personal scores by giving to an otherwise ordinary dispute, the colour of an alleged atrocity under the Act," Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau said.
The court observed that the provisions of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, meant to protect the lot of the exploited sections, should not be allowed to be misused.
"Law cannot be the absolute property of a few and this court can only hope and appeal that the provisions of this Special Legislation are not abused by a few so as to ensure that its benefit is able to actually reach the exploited sections," ASJ Lau said.
"This court also will not be a privy to any exploitative situation of misuse and abuse of this Act whose abuse has otherwise raised serious concerns all over the country," it said.
Recently, the Uttar Pradesh government has been compelled to take up the issue in the state assembly for relaxing the stringent provisions of SC/ST Act to check its abuse without compromising with the security of the marginalised sections of the society, it pointed out.
In this case, the court noted that complainant, Kanaklata, 30, a Master of Philosophy from Delhi University, had changed her statement before the police on May four, 2008 and invoked the provisions of the SC/ST Act against the family members of her landlord after talking to her lawyer.
"I find that the present case is a glaring example of abuse of a Special Legislation with stringent provisions, which has been enacted to ameliorate the lot of the hitherto, under-privileged, deprived and marginalised section of the society," ASJ Lau said.
The court said that complainant Kanaklata had spared none as she had in her improved version of the complaint, roped in the entire family of Om Prakash Grover, a senior citizen, including all women members. She did not stop at this and further implicated the brother of the landlord Ved Prakash, his wife and his daughter -in-law who are not even residing in the same house and are resident of another property at Mukherjee Nagar in New Delhi, it added.
The court also pulled up the police for failing to properly conduct the probe into the case.
"Though the investigations have been conducted by an Assistant Commissioner of Police but it is rather unfortunate that he allowed himself to play into the hands of the complainant rather than independently examine the material before him in an unbiased manner and strictly enforce the provisions of law," it said.
The court recommended that before any final report in the case of SC/ST Act was filed, it is monitored and examined at a still higher level so as to check its frequent misuse.