Congress leader Udit Raj has successfully stopped a journalist from releasing his interview after the politician threatened to get the journalist imprisoned under the SC/ST Act if he dared to release the interview which apparently had some difficult questions for the Congress leader.
The journalist has shared his allegations against Udit Raj with OpIndia. He has reached out to share that he is being threatened and intimidated by the Congress leader over some parts of an interview. We are withholding his identity to prevent further harassment of this media person by the Dalit leader.
The journalist who interviewed the Congress leader said Raj was rattled by one of the uncomfortable questions he had asked during his interview. Enraged by the question, Kumar threatened the journalist with imprisonment under the SC/ST Act if he released the interview.
The journalist shared that Udit Raj had reportedly stated that BJP’s ‘fools’ had given importance to the farmer protest ‘toolkit’ issue. Upon this, he had asked the Congress leader if he had also been ‘fooled’ by the same. On this question, Raj allegedly lost his cool and threatened the journalist with the SC/ST Act if he releases that part of the interview.
The journalist lamented that he has the entire recording of Udit Raj’s interview but could not release it because of the threat and intimidation he is facing from the Congress leader. It must be noted that Congress spokesperson Udit Raj is a Dalit leader and National Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST organisations.
What do lawyers say about the SC/ST Act threat?
OpIndia talked to advocates to understand if the SC/ST Act can indeed be used as a tool by Dalit leaders to silence critics and prevent journalists from sharing their interviews. Lawyer Ravi Sharma says that in order to attract the ingredients of the offences under The Prevention of Atrocities (Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe) Act, 1989, it is imperative that the abuse/humiliation/persecution of the victim should have been carried out on account of him being a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe and the offences under the act does not automatically gets attracted in all cases of violence/abuse/humiliation/persecution, simply because the victim belonged to a scheduled caste or tribe unless such atrocity has been motivated by caste considerations.
Advocate Vishwanath Venkatash said the excerpt based on the conversation would not warrant the invoking of the necessary sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, however, if there has been an identifiable pattern of past remarks or behaviour, a case can be made out subject to the filing of a complaint.
Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, also known as the SC/ST Act, was enacted to protect the marginalized communities against discrimination and atrocities.
The law lists various offences relating to various patterns or behaviours inflicting criminal offences and breaking the self-respect and esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes community, which includes denial of economic, democratic, and social rights, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse of the legal process.
Under Section 18 of the act, provision for anticipatory bail is not available to the offenders. Any public servant, who deliberately neglects his duties under this act, is liable to punishment with imprisonment for up to 6 months. An amendment was added to the original act in 2015 to make the act more stringent by adding more instances of “atrocities” as crimes against SCs and STs.
Rampant misuse of SC/ST Act
The anti-atrocities law was initially enacted with the laudable purpose of protecting persons hailing from the SC and ST community from any abuse or harassment over notions of caste supremacy. However, over the years, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 has been misused extensively for vengeance, blackmail and personal vendetta. False cases are rampantly registered under the Act against the members of other communities to settle personal scores.
A couple of months back, Rajasthan police had informed that over 40% of the cases filed in 2020 under The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 were found to be fake.
Last year, people in a village in the Firozabad district in Uttar Pradesh fled the village due to fake cases registered against them under the SC/ST Act. According to reports, residents of Gothua village had sold their homes and moved to other places due to harassment of fake cases. Villagers have written on the outside walls and doors of their houses that they will be sold.
There have been several cases reported from various parts of the country where people were falsely implicated under the stringent provisions of the SC/ST Act. Any act of defiance is used as reasonable grounds to charge the person with SC/ST Act.
The controversial law has fuelled a major debate in the country pertaining to the cases of rampant misuse by the SC/ST communities by falsely registering cases against the members of other communities. Taking this to cognizance, the Supreme Court, in its 2018 judgment had diluted the stringent provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
However, the Union government brought another amendment act to nullify the Supreme Court’s 2018 order pertaining to the SC/ST atrocities act. Subsequently, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018.