The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Ordinance, cleared in over two-hour-long meeting of the Union Cabinet on Sunday, proposes that common crimes like rape, assault and kidnapping should also be brought under the purview of this act.
    
Most of these crimes invite punishment of less than 10 years but with amendments, crimes like these will invite punishment for more than 10 years.
    
The amendments to Section 3 also define new crimes and add some to the list. Obstructing use of common property, allegations of witchcraft, preventing entry in place of worship, social economic boycott and promoting enmity are some of the changes which have been added to the list. These crimes will now be considered as cruelty against SC and STs.
    
There had been demands that penal provisions be given more teeth and the ambit of crimes against SCs and STs be broadened to prevent atrocities in any form. The measure also establishes special courts for the trial of such offenses and the rehabilitation of victims.
    
It shall be the duty of the state to make arrangements for the protection of victims, their dependents and witnesses. According to the bill, the state government shall specify a scheme to ensure the implementation of rights of victims and witnesses.
    
The bill is pending in Parliament. Sources said there was no surety as to when the recommendation of the Cabinet will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent.

(Agencies)

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