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The Court noted that out of 35,091 cases filed from 2015 to 2019, chargesheets have been filed only in 6,400 cases.
The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday questioned the state government on the reasons for the "gross" delay in filing charge sheets in cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act) and its Rules.
In its order, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Ashok Kinagi asked the following:
"Rule 7 of the said Rules, sub rule 2 provides that charge sheet shall be filed within a period of 60 days. However, out of 35,091 cases from 2015 to 2019, chargesheets have been filed only in 6,400 cases. The State shall clarfiy whether the investigating officers have submitted explanation for delay in investigation, which is mandated by sub rule 2(A) of rule 7. The state government will have to take a call as to why there is such a gross delay in filing charge sheets."
During the hearing, Senior Advocate Jayna Kothari, appearing for the petitioners, urged the Court to direct the state government to provide data on compensation provided to the victims as well as the minutes of the acquittal review committees meetings held.
Another area of concern was the huge pendency of criminal cases under the Act, the Bench noted.
It was further pointed out that an adequate number of special courts had not been appointed. In this view, the Court recollected that a request was made to the Registrar General of the High Court (RG) to consider setting up nine more special Courts under the SC/ST Act.
The Bench went on to direct the RG to file a report on the status of the proposal to set up more of these courts. This apart, the Court has directed for the following aspects to be included in the report:
Highlight the vacancy position in the cadre of district Judges and the steps taken to fill in the said vacancies.
RG to consider issuing a circular to all Special Courts under the SC/ST Act, inviting attention of the judicial officers to the timelines fixed under the Act, giving emphasis to Section 14 of the said Act.
To specify if any special training workshops are conducted for judicial officers who are in charge of the these courts.
The Court further opined,
"The issue why the conviction rate is low is a very complicated issue. The issue can be dealt with by constantly monitoring the progress of the cases under the Atrocities Act."
The Bench further opined that the issues of delay in investigation and large number of acquittals will have to be tackled by the state government by undertaking regular training for the investigating officers and special public prosecutors appointed under the Act. The state government is required to place on record necessary details of the training programmes arranged.
Karnataka High Court
Based on the objections filed by the state government, the Court was prompt to note that meetings of the district-level vigilance and monitoring committee constituted under the SC/ST Rules were not being conducted regularly. The same was the case with regard to the sub-division level vigilance and monitoring committees, the Court observed.
Keeping this issue in mind, the Court directed the State to ensure that these two categories of committees hold meetings at least once every three months. The State was also directed to ensure that the monitoring committees at all levels monitor the implementation of the provisions of the scheme framed under the Act.
"If the state government wishes to conduct sensitization programmes for investigating officers and for special public prosecutors, it is free to approach Karnataka Judicial Academy. We are sure that the Karnataka Judicial Academy will arrange the training courses", the Bench added.
As the hearing drew a close, the Court stated,
"We must note here that this is not an adversarial litigation. A judicial notice will have to be taken of the fact that even several years after the Constitution is adopted, after the Atrocities Act came into force in 1989, there are several cases of Atrocities happening across the country within the meaning of Section 3 of the Act.
Therefore, it is all the more necessary for the State to implement the provisions of the Atrocities Act and the said Rules. The entire machinery for ensuring implementation, in its true letter and spirit has been provided under the Atrocities Act and the said Rules. The question is of activating the said machinery for optimal results."
The matter has been adjourned to October 15 for reporting compliances.