Key features of the ordinance
- Addition of following new category of offences to the existing 19 punishable offences. In addition to the 19 offences listed in the Act, following new offences proposed. To cite a few: tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts which are derogatory to the dignity of Dalits and Adivasis; garlanding with chappals; denying access to irrigation facilities or forest rights ; dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or to dig graves; using or permitting manual scavenging; dedicating Dalit women as devadasi; abusing in caste name; perpetrating witchcraft atrocities; imposing social or economic boycott; preventing Dalit and Adivasi candidates filing of nomination to contest elections; hurting the modesty of Dalit/Adivasi woman by removing her garments; forcing to leave house , village or residence; defiling objects sacred to SCs and STs; touching a women or uses words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature against women.
- Addition of IPC offences attracting committed against Dalits or Adivasis as punishable offences under the POA Act. Presently, only those offences listed in IPC as attracting punishment of 10 years or more and committed on Dalits/ Adivasis are accepted as offences falling under the POA Act. A number of commonly committed offences (hurt, grievous hurt, intimidation, kidnapping etc.) are excluded from the Act. This provides loopholes for the perpetrators of crime to escape from being punished for these commonly committed crimes. Therefore a Schedule of list of IPC offences is provided in the amended act.
- Establishment of Exclusive Special Courts and Special Public Prosecutors to exclusively try the offences falling under the POA Act to enable speedy and expeditious disposal of cases. Presently, Special Courts and Public Prosecutors also deal with other cases besides atrocity cases. Consequently, cases are kept pending for long time. Thus victims are denied justice or speedy justice. Establishment of an Exclusive Special Court for one or more districts and Exclusive Public Prosecutor is proposed;
- Power of Exclusive Courts to take cognizance of offence and completion of trial in 2 months. Courts so established or specified shall have power to directly take cognizance of offences under this Act and the trial shall, as far as possible, be completed within a period of two months from the date of filing of the charge sheet.
- Addition of chapter on the ‘Rights of Victims and Witnesses’. As of now, the Act recognizes a few rights of the victims and witnesses. This is insufficient. Therefore many other essential rights are covered so as to impose duty and responsibility upon the State for making arrangements for the protection of victims, their dependants and witnesses against any kind of intimidation, coercion or inducement or violence or threats of violence.
- Defining clearly the term ‘wilful negligence’ of public servants at all levels, starting from the registration of complaint, and covering aspects of dereliction of duty under this Act. Section 4 of the present Act does not clearly define what constitutes ‘wilful negligence’ of public servants. Hence, ‘wilful negligence’ is defined by listing specific transgressions of law: for example, police officers not putting down accurately in writing the victim’s complaint; not reading out to the victims what has been recorded prior to getting their signature; not registering FIR under the Act; not registering it under appropriate sections of the Act; etc.
- Addition of presumption to the offences –If the accused was acquainted with the victim or his family, the court will presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim unless proved otherwise.
Download the ordinance from here.