Recover compensation paid to Dalits: Gujarat judge

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A special judge in Banaskantha district in Gujarat has directed the state Social Welfare Department to recover compensation paid to Dalit complainants in cases filed under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, according to a report by The Indian Express.

The three cases were reported in 2014, 2016 and 2017. In two cases, the complainants are women, who accused upper-caste men of assault and harassment. In the third one, a Dalit man had complained against an upper-caste man for injuring his wife in a road accident and making derogatory remarks against him.

In the two cases where the complainant is a woman, the court acquitted the accused, concluding that the complaint had been false. In the third case, where the complainant received Rs 75,000 as compensation, the court acquitted the accused on the charges under the Atrocities Act, while convicting him on other charges such as rash driving and causing grievous injury.

Special court judge Chirag Munshi ruled in all three cases that the charges under the atrocities act were false. Orders were passed by the special judge to recover compensation, concluding that the 'menace' of registering false complaints cannot be overlooked.

“The court had ordered (the government) to recover (the compensation) as the case was not proved. However, as per the law, there is no provision for the recovery,” Deputy Director of Social Welfare Department in Banaskantha district H R Parmar told the newspaper. “So, we are going to challenge the judgments before the Gujarat High Court. We will instruct the public prosecutor accordingly.”

Under provisions of the Atrocities Act, the state government pays monetary compensation to Dalit victims. The compensation amount varies depending on the gravity of the alleged offence: in the case of murder, it is Rs 8.25 lakh, rape or gang-rape Rs 5 lakh, sexual harassment Rs 2 lakh, preventing entry into religious, cultural or social places Rs 1 lakh and making derogatory remarks Rs 1 lakh.

Apparently, 25% of the compensation amount is paid at the time of registering the FIR, 50% after the chargesheet is submitted and the remaining 25% when the case is proved in the trial court.

Recent government figures show that between October 2018 and May 2019, a total of Rs 16.88 crore has been paid as compensation to complainants in cases under the Atrocities Act.
 

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