SC/ST Act Meant to Confer Dignity, Won't Change with Migration to Another State, Rules Gujarat HC
The HC was hearing the murder of a man in Gujarat who belonged to an ST community in Rajasthan. The accused argued the man was not an ST member in Gujarat and provisions of the Act were not applicable to them.
Ahmedabad: Does a crime against a person belonging to SC/ST community in other state and not in Gujarat invite provisions of the atrocity Act? The high court says yes. And it further clarifies that this law is meant to protect the dignity of members of scheduled castes and tribes and has nothing to do with the provisions of reservation in jobs and education.
The issue came up during a hearing on the murder of one Sumersing Meena in Gujarat. He belonged to a Scheduled Tribe community in Rajasthan. The murder accused were booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and hence, denied bail by a trial court in Mirzapur.
The three men accused of murder then moved the Gujarat High Court for a pre-arrest bail arguing that Meena was a member of an ST community in Rajasthan and not Gujarat. Therefore, provisions of the Act were not applicable to them.
Rejecting their argument in a recent order, Justice Umesh Trivedi made it clear that the SC/ST Act “confers dignity and respect” on people belonging to certain castes and tribes and shields them from harassment and humiliation. Merely because people of SC/ST communities in another state do not get the benefits of reservation in the state they have migrated to, it does not take away the right to dignity and respect conferred by the Act by the legislature.
“When the caste of a person is declared to be a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, may be for the purpose of constitution, in relation to that state, the status of caste does not get changed, on migration, within India. Though in a migrated state such person may not be entitled to reap any rights, benefits or privileges in respect of reservation in education or service under the Constitution, neither the caste nor the status attached to a person gets vanished,” Justice Trivedi said in his order.
Delving further on the issue of social status in relation to crime, he said, “The caste is conferred on a person by birth. It remains with him wherever he goes. The Act does not confer any right or privilege to a person either of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe but it confers respect and dignity to them.”
On the applicability of the law to check crime committed against members of the SC/ST across the country, Justice Trivedi said, “The Act is a special legislation to check crimes committed against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and to achieve this objective, the Act has been enacted… If the legislature wanted to restrict the applicability of the offence committed against a person in his state of origin only it would have made it very clear and loud expressly.”
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