New Delhi: Taking note of poor conviction rate and slow trial mechanism in cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,The Centre has asked all the states to set up special courts to handle such matters

"The government has circulated a concept note to all states regarding setting up of exclusive special courts for SC/ST cases," Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik said, and added: “discussions are underway at various levels to make this a reality.”

The step comes after NGOs and social groups repeatedly told the government that there was a rise in atrocity cases against SC/ST in the past few years and that the trial procedure and conviction rate in courts across the country were poor.

Wasnik admitted that the conviction rate in such cases was "abysmally" low at 27 per cent as compared to that of other IPC offences. He also lamented that the pendency of these cases in courts nationwide was as much as 81 per cent.

According to latest statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), between 1995 to 2009 as many as 80,489 cases of atrocity against people of Scheduled Tribes were
registered, of which 1,911 were murder cases and 7,537 rape cases.

He said that some states have already announced their decision to set up these special courts.

Retired senior IAS officer P S Krishnan, who is credited for the formulation of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, has been advocating on the urgent need to set up the exclusive special courts.

"Apart from the issue of pendency of large number of cases, the issue here is that there is a dearth of lawyers and judges to hear such matters," Krishnan said.

He said tribals face a lot of problems when they go to regular courts as nobody understands their language and issues.

As per the official figures, at the end of 2009, as many as 15,909 cases of crimes against ST remained pending in courts. States like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Orissa have the maximum number of instances of crimes against SC/ST community, the figures indicated.