Daily Current Affairs for 25th February 2020

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Rajasthan Police data: Atrocities on SCs/STs at 10-year high in 2019

Paper: II

For Mains: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Context of News:

  • According to the data from the state police reveals that the number of cases registered pertaining to atrocities against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs/STs) in Rajasthan was the highest in 10 years in the year 2019.

What Data Says?

  • According to police data, in 2019, a total of 8,591 cases pertaining to atrocities against SCs/STs were registered in Rajasthan. Over the past decade, the closest figure to this was in 2014 – 8,415 cases.
  • The police data suggests that there was a 50.67 per cent increase in atrocities against SCs/STs in 2019 as compared to 2018, when the total number of cases was 5,702. The data also reveals a 47.47 per cent increase in crimes against Dalits.
  • Rajasthan also saw an overall increase in the total number of IPC cases registered in 2019, with the crime rate increasing by 31.08 per cent in comparison with 2018. The total IPC crime cases registered in 2019 were 2,25,306 which was must higher than 1,71,889 cases in 2019.

Available Mechanism for Protection of SCs/STs:

  • The police are bound to register FIR whenever a cognisable offence is reported to it and there are also Supreme Court guidelines on it. The logic that the increase in crimes against the SC/ST population is only because more FIRs are being registered doesn’t seem correct. In many cases, it is being seen that the police are not following the necessary guidelines such as providing protection to the victims and ensuring their rehabilitation.
  • Constitutional Mechanism:
  • Article 17 abolishes Untouchability.
  • Article 46 requires the State ‘to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • Article 335 provides that the claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.
  • Article 15(4) refers to the special provisions for their advancement.
  • Article 16(4A) speaks of “reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of SCs/STs, which are not adequately represented in the services under the State’.
  • Article 338 provides for a National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes with duties to investigate and monitor all matters relating to safeguards provided for them, to inquire into specific complaints and to participate and advise on the planning process of their socio-economic development etc.
  • Article 330 and Article 332 of the Constitution respectively provide for reservation of seats in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in the legislative assemblies of the States. Under Part IX relating to the Panchayats and Part IXA of the Constitution relating to the Municipalities, reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in local bodies has been envisaged and provided.

What are the various forms of atrocities against SC/ST?

  • Cow vigilantism:
  • The term “Cow vigilantism” is used to describe the lawlessness happening under the name of Cow protection.
  • Dalits and Muslims are at the receiving end of this vigilantism.
  • Since Dalits are concentrated in the occupation of leather making from hides of the cow, they are invariably targeted by vigilantes.
  • Cow vigilantism has increased since past two years
  • Honour killing:
  • In a society like India, where caste structures are still dominant in the form of endogamy, honour killings are prevalent on a wide scale.
  • Dalits are almost always at the receiving end of the violence.
  • Social boycott:
  • Khap panchayat – caste panchayat often acts as an arena for perpetuating atrocities against Dalits by ostracizing them from the society
  • Ambedkar had recognized the atrocities meting out to Dalits in the form of social boycott. He had often fought against the practice. He proposed an anti-boycott law
  • He recognized that discrimination occurs in multiple axes like boycott-stigmatization-segregation and try to fight it out on all these axes

Way Forward:

  • Activists have expressed concern over increasing number of cases against the weaker sections of the society in the state and have raised questions over the functioning of the police and rising incidence of vigilantism by people.
  • Increasing awareness about legal remedies and rights available to marginalized section of society.
  • Minimising duration of trials
  • Improving training of police officers in dealing with POA cases so that they can solve cases without any pressure.
  • The government should take proactive measures to improve participation of people from SC/ST community in decision making and government functioning.
  • The new and disturbing trend of recording the criminal act and circulating it points to the apparent sense of impunity among perpetrators of caste violence. The government needs to send out the message that this cycle of impunity will be broken. The encouragement to report caste atrocities has to be backed with improved enforcement of the law and speedy justice.

Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) is not conclusive proof of citizenship

Paper: III

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News

  • On February 11, a magistrate’s court in Mumbai ruled that an election card or voting card is sufficient proof of citizenship, and acquitted two individuals whom police had accused of being Bangladeshi infiltrators.
  • However, on February 12, a division bench of the High Court of Gauhati ruled in two separate cases that an Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) was not conclusive proof of citizenship. The High Court reiterated the law laid down by the court in an earlier case, Md Babul Islam vs State of Assam [WP(C) No. 3547 of 2016], which “held that Electoral Photo Identity Card is not a proof of citizenship.

Observation made by  Guwahati High Court:

  • Guwahati high court observed that An electoral photo identity card cannot be treated in isolation as conclusive proof of citizenship in the context  of the Assam Accord, the Guwahati HC has said while invoking invoking a 2016 ruling to dismiss a petitioner’s claim to being Indian by virtue of his name being on a voters’ list.
  • The court also held that land revenue receipts, a PAN card and bank documents cannot be used to prove citizenship.

What Law says?

  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951, was recently updated in the state as per the exclusive cut-off date of March 24, 1971, decided in the Accord. Among the 14 documents to be chosen from by the NRC applicants to claim that they settled in Assam prior to 1971, though the electoral rolls till that date were included as valid documents, voter ID card was not in the list.
  • As per Clause 6A of the Citizenship Act, an outcome of the Assam Accord, the base year for citizenship exclusive to Assam is January 1, 1966. Those who settled in the state between January 1, 1966 and March 24, 1971 are to lose their right to vote for a period of ten years and on completion of that period would be regularized.

Possible impact of Guwahati High Observation:

  • To suggest that being on the voters’ list is not enough, and that those on it would have to still prove their citizenship, is fraught with complications and circularity. After this observation made by Guwahati high court , further work of CAA and NPR will be daunting task as pan card ,bank passbook and voter id has been declined as proof of citizenship, this will lead to burden on citizenship as to proof his/her citizenship.
  • Post this Guwahati High court observation the situation may aggravate further as if EPIC card is not a proof of citizenship than what all documents will be for citizenship proof?. If the Voter ID is of dubious authenticity, then clearly the status of those elected by dubious voters is also dubious
  • There are also possibilities that in order to proof of citizenship, the most impacted communities will be lower middle and class and poor people due to lack of resources and education to arrange these documents.

Way Forward:

  • Post this observation by Guwahati High court ,it remains to be seen whether this decision will stand still in Supreme court if any PIL is filed against it, challenging on the litmus test of violating the citizenship rights and putting burden on citizens to prove his/her citizenship rather than other way round.

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