New Delhi, Apr 2: Dalits organisations are observing a nationwide strike – Bharat Bandh – today to protest against the dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act following a Supreme Court order. Even as the government has filed a review petition, members of the Dalit community are on the street to observe Bharat Bandh in protest. Protesters also turned violent in Agra, Bamar, Saharanpur and Meerut where public and private properties were damaged.

On March 20, in a bid to check the misuse of SC/ST Act, the apex court had ruled that the preliminary inquiry in a case under the Atrocities Act would be done by the DSP to ensure the allegations were not frivolous, and to avoid false implication of an innocent. The top court had also held that a government official could be prosecuted on a mere allegation of committing an offence under the Act without the sanction of the appointing authority.

All you need to know about SC/ST Atrocities Act:

The SC/ST Atrocities Act was passed by the Parliament in 1989. The law listed down the forms of cruelty which were inflicted upon lower-caste people. The motive behind the legislation was to eradicate untouchability and prevent atrocities against Dalits. Here are the provisions of the law which aim to empower the Dalit community:

1.2.Punishments for offence of atrocities, — 
Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Castes or a Scheduled Tribes, —

  1. Forces a member of a Scheduled Castes or a Scheduled Tribes to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance;
  2. Acts with intent to cause injury, insult or annoyance to any member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe by dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance in his premises or neighbourhood;
  3. Forcibly removes clothes from the person of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or parades him naked or with painted face or body or commits any similar act which is derogatory to human dignity;
  4. Wrongfully occupies or cultivates any land owned by, or allotted to, or notified by any competent authority to be allotted to, a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or gets the land allotted to him transferred;
  5. Wrongfully dispossesses a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe from his land or premises or interferes with the enjoyment of his right over any land, premises or water;
  6. Compels or entices a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to do ‘begar’ or other similar forms of forced or bonded labour other than compulsory service for public purposes imposed by Government;
  7. Forces or intimidates a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe not to vote or to vote a particular candidate or to vote in a manner other than that provided by law;
  8. Institutes false, malicious or vexatious suit or criminal or other legal proceedings against a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe;
  9. Gives any false or frivolous information to any public servant and thereby causes such public servant to use his lawful power to the injury or annoyance of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe;
  10. Intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view;
  11. Assaults or uses forces to any woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe with intent to dishonor or outrage her modesty;
  12. Being in a position to dominate the will of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and uses that position to exploit the sexually to which she would not have otherwise agreed;
  13. Corrupts or fouls the water of any spring, reservoir or any other source ordinarily used by members of the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes so as to render it less fit for the purpose for which it is ordinarily used; 
  14. Denies a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe any customary right of passage to a place of public resort or obstructs such member so as to prevent him from using or having access to a place of public resort to which other members of public or any section thereof have a right to use or access to; 
  15. Forces or causes a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to leave his house, village or other place of residence, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine.