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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » IV. National Mechanisms » Child Related Legislations » Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, 1989

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In 1989, the Government of India passed the Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA), which defines specific crimes against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) as "atrocities," and discuses strategies and sets down punishments to counter these acts. Though the acts is not specific to children or does not have specific provisions for crimes against children, it does apply to all crimes committed against SC or ST children. Following is an overview of the act.

The act lists a description of all acts that are considered to be atrocities under this law. Some of these provisions are punishable up to five years and a fine such as forcing a SC or ST to eat or drink non-edible or obnoxious substances, forcibly parading a SC or ST person naked or any other act which is derogatory to human dignity, the use of or transfer of allotted land belonging to and SC or ST member, etc. Other atrocities have different punishments such as a person who gives false evidence against a SC/ST member in a court case will be punished with life imprisonment and a fine, arson of a SC/ST property is punishable up to seven years and a fine, any crime listed in the penal code that describes a punishment of ten year imprisonment or more and is committed against a SC/ST member or to his/her property is sentences to life imprisonment and fine under this act, etc. The act attempts to protect SC/ST people from systematic discrimination by punishing public servants for neglecting their duties. The state government is given powers to decide the procedures for arrest, investigation and prosecution of persons before any Special Court.

To prevent atrocities, the court may order the removal or ban of a person who is likely to commit an offence from a scheduled area or tribal land. If the person fails to move or returns after removal that person can be arrested and forcibly removed from the area. Also persons who have committed offences must submit to measurements and a photograph so as to keep track of all persons who have committed an offence under this act. In order or prosecute people under this act the state government is required to convert a session court in each district to a special court to try offences under this act. As in the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 the state can impose a collective fine on people of an area. The law outlines that it is the duty of the local government and law enforcement officers to carry out measures to prevent atrocities against SC/ST people.

Under this act people are not permitted to appeal to the court for bail. Adults who have committed crimes according to this act are not permitted to be released on probation of good conduct or after reprimand. In order to ensure the full implementation of this act, the government is required to provide legal aid, social and economic rehabilitation for victims, provide travelling and maintenance expenses of witnesses and victims, setting up committees to carry out implementation measures, monitoring and evaluate the work under this act, and identify high risk areas.

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