'Invoke SC/ST Act for anti-dalit crimes'
NEW DELHI: As the high court verdict in the Khairlanji rape-cum-murder case invites criticism from activists and intellectuals, Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar has underlined that heinous crimes against dalits should be booked under the Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) Act.
Kumar said the Khairlanji massacre was a crime perpetrated by non-SCs on SCs which should have automatically attracted the Act, but did not. "Such instances should be booked under the PoA. That will take care of everything," she told TOI.
The speaker was replying to queries in the backdrop of the Bombay High Court ruling which has commuted the death sentence to the accused and also ruled that the gruesome crime against Bhaiyyalal Bhootmange's family was one of revenge and not of caste prejudice.
Kumar's concern that crimes against dalits by non-dalits should be booked under PoA seems to nail the root cause behind the prosecution's failure to convict the accused in such cases.
The Khairlanji FIR did not mention the PoA and it is believed to have weakened the case. The lax probe triggered an agitation after which it was transferred to CBI.
The HC verdict delivered recently has led to criticism as it not only commuted the death sentence given by the Bhandara court to life imprisonment but also reiterated the "no-caste-crime" view. Bhootmange plans to appeal against it in the Supreme Court. But observers are concerned that the court did not see caste as having played a role in the murder of four persons including the gruesome rape of two women.
This has been a sticking point. Even when the Bhandara court's death sentence in September 2008 was acclaimed as landmark in the history of crimes against dalits, Kumar, as Union social justice minister, asked the state government and the Union personnel ministry to appeal against the verdict.
The post-high court order scene remains as grim with the issue even finding mention in the meeting of the National Advisory Council headed by UPA chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on July 14. Narendra Jadhav brought the issue to the notice of the NAC chair and said the case had been weakened by the police failure to book the crime under the PoA.