DSS conducted a Public Hearing of the victims of atrocities on 12th October 2022 at Ambedkar Bhavan, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.
DSS conducts these Public Hearings regularly to access justice to the dalit women and girl children victims of atrocities. The purpose of conducting is to bring to light the delay, omissions and other ordeals of the victims in accessing justice. In these Public Hearings the concerned officials are requested to attend and listen to the anguishes of the victims in accessing justice. The S.C. & S.T. (PoA) Act 1989 and the amendments made in 2015 are intended to provide speedy justice to the victims of atrocities and deter the perpetrators of violence on Dalits. But it has been the experience of DSS that the law is never properly implemented and the Act is violated in all aspects. Compensation is not paid totally and in time. Investigation, filing of chargesheets, examination of witnesses and all procedures are not done with commitment. While this is the actual reality, a concerted propaganda is being carried on by the dominant castes that the Dalits are abusing the S.C. & S.T. (PoA) Act. Even the Supreme Court in its decision a few years ago endorsed this view and imposed restrictions on registering the cases under the Act, which decision was nullified later by legislation. In this type of situation, it is necessary to expose the actual reality vis-à-vis the canard. More so, it is pertinent to make the concerned officials to realise how the justice is system is operating against the victims and witnesses. This purpose is served in Public Hearing in which the victims and witnesses narrate their arduous journey in accessing justice. Through these interactions, the officials, heads of other organisations, media representatives and the society in general would come to know about the unfortunate reality of lop-sided implementation of the Act. Further, these Public Hearings provide the opportunity to give a fillip to deliver speedy justice by bringing together the Victims, Witnesses, Human Rights Defenders, Advocates, Social Welfare Department, Police Department, Director of Prosecutions, State & National Commissions so that a concerted effort can be initiated by all concerned.
Public Hearing on 12th October 2022:
As part of our ongoing efforts to render justice, we have selected 30 cases for presentation before the Jury of this Public Hearing. The cases selected are attached to this report. The hard copies of the case details in the form of booklets have been distributed to all the participants. The jury members have been supplied the booklets sufficiently earlier so that they can come prepared.
Ms. Vasireddy Padma, Chairperson of A.P. Women Commission attended as Chief Guest while the other jury members were: Sri. Ajay Prem Kumar, Director of Prosecutions, Sri. Mohan Rao, representing PCR Cell, CID, Ms. Sridevi, Safai Karmachari Andolan, Ms. Anupama, Bhumika Women’s Collective, Sri. Kiran Kumar, Indian Labour Union, Ms. Qumar Begum, SEEDS. Ms. Hemalatha, State Co-ordinator, AP was the rapporteur of the public hearing.
Ms. Jhansi Geddam:
The proceedings were chaired by Ms. Jhansi Geddam, National Convener of DSS. Jhansi Geddam explained about the purpose of the public hearing and gave details of cases. The 30 cases presented comprised of major atrocities like, murder, rapes, gang rapes, kidnap and rape of minor girls,
cheating innocent girls in the name of love, caste abuse and attacks. All the victims narrated how the atrocity was committed on them, the police conduct in registering the case, investigation and the ordeals faced by them in going around the offices for payment of compensation. All the victims broke down and sobbed uncontrollably while recounting their ordeals from the time of atrocity. Their misery and pathetic situation moved everyone. The officers who attended as jury members were moved by the pitiful stories of the victims and the how they were denied access to justice was at every stage. The telling effect of the tardy implementation of the Act and the pitiable predicament of the victims became clear to the jury and everyone that attended the hearing. Ms. Jhansi Geddam analysed each case and explained how the Act and the Rules were violated in each case by the concerned personnel. She pointed out how the Act is not effectively implemented despite the stringent amendments made to the Act and how there is inordinate delay in filing the charge sheets in utter disregard of the time limits prescribed in the Act. Thus, it can be seen, that the Act is diluted and neglected. Further, it is noticed that the enforcing personnel are not aware of the provisions and amendments of Act.
Ms. Vasireddy Padma, Chairperson, State Women’s Commission:
Ms. Vasireddy Padma appreciated the efforts of DSS in bringing the victims of various atrocities together. She expressed sympathy at the plight of the victims and commended their fortitude in standing for justice instead of compromise. She appealed to the concerned authorities to seriously
implement the provisions of Act. She delved on the subject of oppression of dalit women and pointed out that unless the inequities among people in the society is eradicated, on cannot put a stop to the atrocities. She called the people and the governments to concentrate on the eradication of all forms of inequalities. She chided insensitive officials in not responding to the woes of the victims in accordance with law. She promised to write to the concerned departments wherever there is delay in implement the Act. Further, she assured to put efforts to see that the compensation amount is released to the victims. Referring to the girls who were cheated in the name of love, she emboldened them to face the reality and not to loose hear. She advised them to pursue studies. She concluded her speech with a promise that, she will lend all support to the victims along with DSS.
Sri. Ajay Prem Kumar, Additional Director of Prosecutions:
Sri Ajay Prem Kumar, confided that he was moved by listening to the pathetic stories of these hapless women and girls. He told that, though they have knowledge of court cases and how the
justice system runs in general, this interaction with the 30 victims and the specific details narrated by them, revealed how insensitive the system is operating towards the victims. He said he was heartbroken at the torments of the dalit women. Then, he pointed out that various atrocities are happening on the dalit women due to their economic deprivation and lack of education. The dalit girls are being cheated due to their innocence and lack of knowledge. He bolstered them to concentrate on studies and education to overcome all sorts of discrimination and oppression. He assured to take care of their needs at the courts when the cases come up for trial.
Leaders and representatives of various organisations joined in expressing their solidarity with the victims. Everyone appreciated the victims for their perseverance and courage in fighting for justice without compromise. The leaders applauded the victims and said that they stand out as inspiration for all Dalits to stand up for justice.
All the victims and witnesses who shared their distresses got emboldened and felt reassured to stand up till the end. Their confidence was boosted. Ms. Hemalatha, State Co-ordinator, presented vote of thanks to everyone that participated and made the public hearing a success.