In a recent incident of caste-based violence, a 25-year-old Dalit man in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district was beaten to death by his friends after allegedly touching their food at a feast.
What is the Constitutional take on discrimination?
Article 15 of the Constitution of India, 1950 says that the Government should not discriminate against any citizen based only on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Based on these reasons, citizens cannot be denied access to shops, public restaurants, places of public entertainment, wells, tanks, roads, places for public use etc.
Further, Article 17 of the Constitution abolishes untouchability in any form.
These constitutional rights are available against the Government itself, but in case of actions by individuals or individual groups, the legal solution can be found under specific laws and criminal law.
Which law specifically protects Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes?
The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 specifically deals with offences against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). The Act prevents offences or atrocities against SC members, and provides special courts for the trial of such offences. It also aims to offer relief and rehabilitation for SC victims.
Section 3 of the Act punishes offences against members of SCs, such as:
- Forcibly committing any act on an SC member, like removing their clothes, forcibly shaving their hair, painting their body or any other similar act which is against human dignity.
- Insulting or intimidating an SC member in any public place with the intention of humiliating them.
- Promoting feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will against members of SCs.
The punishment for committing any of the abovementioned offences is imprisonment for six months to five years, along with a fine.
The Act also provides for speedy trial of offences against SCs. Specifically for this purpose, the State government, along with the Chief Justice of the High Court:
- establishes an Exclusive Special Court for one or more districts in the State; or
- specifies a Sessions Court to act as a Special Court.
Protection under criminal law
In this scenario, the man was murdered by being beaten to death. According to Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the punishment for committing murder is life imprisonment or the death penalty, along with a fine.