Pending cases of Dalit atrocity keep rising in Gujarat special courts

16 special courts were introduced in 33 districts of Gujarat two years after the Una flogging incident to address Dalit atrocity in Gujarat. The special courts are a part of total 56 special courts and according to data from Gujarat High Court till December 31 last year, there are 3,879 atrocity cases pending at various stages of trial in these courts.

Dalit Atrocities
Gujarat: The news of atrocities and social injustice towards Dalits is not new for Gujarat. Dalit teenagers are beaten on the suspicion of posing as upper caste folks, grooms are attacked for riding horses to their weddings, others are punished for changing their names. It’s been two years since the flogging of Dalit men in Una made national headlines and yet the accused are out on bail while the community awaits justice. They will have to wait a long time as there are 3, 879 cases pending at various stages of trial in Gujarat courts.
16 special courts were introduced in 33 districts of Gujarat two years after the Una flogging incident to address Dalit atrocity in Gujarat. The special courts are a part of total 56 special courts and according to data from Gujarat High Court till December 31 last year, there are 3,879 atrocity cases pending at various stages of trial in these courts.
A report by Ahmedabad Mirror said that Ahmedabad tops the list, followed by Kutch, Banaskantha, Bhavnagar, Surat and Patan. All of them have more than 200 cases pending in courts. Ahmedabad courts, both rural and city sessions, have 485 pending cases. Besides these, there are 11 districts which have more than 100 pending cases.
“The Veraval court in Gir-Somnath district, where the Una flogging case of 2016 and Ankolali burning case of 2012 took place, has 122 pending cases, while the court in Surendranagar, which witnessed the Thangadh firing incident in 2012, has 129. There are as many as 110 cases pending in Junagadh court, which include the case with the largest number of accused—Keshod community clash of 1999 that happened in the aftermath of a rape. Rajpipla court of Narmada district has the lowest number of pending cases at 11, followed by Vyara court in Tapi district with 13 and the Mahisagar district court, also in Rajpipla, with 17 cases. There are 13 districts where the pending cases are in double digits,” it reported.
Lack of infrastructure, bias and false cases
“Regular courts are given additional work of special atrocity courts. Secondly, if the court does not have the capacity to deal with the number of cases it gets, pendency increases. Thirdly, several false cases are filed. This leads to delay in hearing of genuine cases of atrocity. These are besides the usual reasons for delay like absence of complainant, witnesses, lawyers or judge,” Ahmedabad Mirror quoted Judge (retd) OL Pandey, Former Law Secretary, Gujarat.
“Dalit rights activist and founder of Navsarjan Trust Martin Mackwan agreed that police and judiciary tend to take cases lightly due to a high number of false complaints. “There are cases which are pending because proceedings have been stayed for 5-7 years. Also, there is so much workload on the police and judiciary that they are unable to process all of it because of lack of infrastructure development,” he added,” reported Mirror.
Dalit activist and Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani said that there needs to be courts exclusively for atrocity cases which will reduce the pendency. He added that the government can’t get away with providing compensation and what they really want is social justice. “In Una case, the trial has not begun even after two years and the accused are out on bail. The state government is not doing anything to ensure the trial is completed. This sends a message to non-Dalits and non-tribals that the accused will never be punished,” he was quoted by Mirror.
Advocate Govind Parmar felt the judiciary was biased towards the accused in atrocity cases. “In one case, the accused who was out on bail wrote a suicide note blaming the victim of atrocity, yet his bail was not cancelled. Similarly, the Una case accused attacked the Sarvaiya family while out on bail,” Parmar said.
Low conviction rate 
Manisha Sendar is a special public prosecutor for the Ahmedabad Special Atrocity Court, which was established after the Una flogging incident in 2016. “A total of 250 cases were assigned here. Of those, the court has disposed of 120, which is the highest in Gujarat. However, conviction happened in only three of them—one each of murder, rape and grievous hurt. In the remaining cases, the accused and victims reached compromises,” she was quoted by Mirror.
Explaining the trend, she said, “While the victims promise to fight to the end, it is only when they become hostile that we realise that they have reached a settlement, often monetary, with the accused. Many victims later tell us that since they are neighbours or are in minority in areas populated by higher castes, it was in their best interests to reach a settlement and withdraw the cases.”
She clarified that compromises do not happen in serious cases like rape and murder. Currently, there are about 15 atrocity cases related to murder that are under trial at the Ahmedabad sessions court. Three of these are awaiting judgment, Sendar shared with Mirror.
Cases pending in Bihar, Jharkhand
In April, a member of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), Yogendra Paswan, had said that 1,449 cases relating to atrocities against Scheduled Castes people in Bihar and Jharkhand were pending before the Commission till date. He added that the number of pending cases was 2,206 on June 1, 2017, at a press conference in Patna.
“When I took over as a member of the Commission on June 1, 2017, 646 new cases were filed before the Commission from Bihar and Jharkhand, taking the total number of pending cases upto 2,206,” Paswan said. Of the 2,206 cases, 757 cases have been disposed of till date and thus the total pending cases before the Commission from Bihar and Jharkhand was 1449 till date. He asked the police to expedite the cases pending against the people of the Scheduled Castes category. On the Commission’s directive, the police submitted chargesheets in 38 cases relating to atrocities against SC people besides arresting 39 accused persons on its own initiative, he said,” reported PTI.
Crime against Dalits rose by 746% over a decade
Over the decade to 2016, the rate of crime against Dalits rose more than eight times (746%); there were 2.4 crimes per 100,000 Dalits in 2006, rising to 20.3 in 2016, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of 2016 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the latest available.
The rate of crime against Adivasis or scheduled tribes grew by over 12 times (1,160%)–from 0.5 in 2006 to 6.3 in 2016.
However, cases pending police investigation for both marginalised groups has risen by 99% and 55% respectively, while the pendency in courts has risen by 50% and 28%, respectively. The conviction rates for crime against SCs and STs have fallen by 2 percentage points and 7 percentage points, respectively, to 26% and 21%, from 2006 to 2016.
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