Supreme Court: In a petition highlighting the plight of the members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the Court noticed that there has been a failure in complying with the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 as the laudable object with which the Act had been made is defeated by the indifferent attitude of the authorities.
Stating the legislative intent behind the enactment of the Act, the Court noted that Parliament acknowledged that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were subject to various offences, indignities, humiliations and harassments perpetually. Numerous incidents of brutalities and atrocities depriving the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes of their life and property were a cause of concern for Parliament.
Regarding the contention of the Union of India that the State Governments are responsible for carrying out the provisions of the Act, the Court said that the Central Government also has an important role to play in ensuring the compliance of the provisions of the Act. Section 21(4) of the Act provides for a report on the measures taken by the Central Government and State Governments for the effective implementation of the Act to be placed before Parliament every year. The constitutional goal of equality for all the citizens of this country can be achieved only when the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are protected.
The 3-Judge Bench of T.S. Thkur, CJ and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswararao, JJ directed the Central Government and State Governments to strictly enforce the provisions of the Act and also directed the National Commissions to discharge their duties to protect the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Court also asked the National Legal Services Authority to formulate appropriate schemes to spread awareness and provide free legal aid to members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. [National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1488, decided on 15.12.2016]