Women belonging to SCs/STs who are victims of rape and gang rape will now get relief of up to Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8.25 lakh, a separate provision introduced for the first time, and those suffering other atrocities of grievous nature will get relief on conclusion of trial even if it does not end in conviction.
The new Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Rules, 2016, notified by government, include the words rape and gang rape specifically in the definition of atrocities against SC/ST women to enable them to get relief under the Act.
The new rules also make provision of increased relief to victims ranging from Rs 85,000 to Rs 8.25 lakh now, against the earlier amount ranging from Rs 75,000 to Rs 7.5 lakh.
The new rules also mandate that investigation and filing of charge sheet in cases of atrocities against SC/ST women will now have to be completed within 60 days of committing the offence.
Earlier, there was no such time limit for filing of charge sheet, but the investigations in cases were earlier mandated to be completed within a 30 day period.
The new rules also seek to delink requirement of medical examination for getting relief amount for non-invasive kind of offences against women like sexual harassment, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of women, assault or use of criminal force with intent to disrobe, voyeurism, stalking.
"Provision of admissible relief amount to SC/ST women for offences of grievous nature, on conclusion of trial, even though not ending in conviction," an official release said.
The rules envisage that for "victims of gang rape [Section 376D of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)], Rs eight lakh and twenty-five thousand rupees to the victim be made payment with 50 per cent after medical examination and confirmatory medical report; 25 per cent when the charge sheet is sent to the court; and 25 per cent. On conclusion of trial by the lower court."
In the case of rape [Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)], "a provision of Rs five lakh rupees payment is to be made - 50 per cent after medical examination and confirmatory medical report; 25 per cent when the charge sheet is sent to the court; and 25 per cent on conclusion of trial by the lower court."
The new rules also make provision of admissible relief in cash or in kind or both within seven days to the victims of atrocity, their family members and dependents, according to the time frames set in rules notified by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
"The District Magistrate or the Sub- Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate shall make necessary administrative and other arrangements and provide relief in cash or in kind or both within seven days to the victims of atrocity, their family members and dependents according to the scale provided... And such immediate relief shall also include food, water, clothing, shelter, medical aid, transport facilities and other essential items," the rules envisage.
For immediate withdrawal of money from the treasury so as to timely provide the relief amount, the concerned state government or Union territory administration may provide necessary authorisation and powers to the District Magistrate.
"The Special Court or the Exclusive Special Court may also order socio-economic rehabilitation during investigation, inquiry and trial...," they said.
"The rules are an important step forward in our journey towards achieving Babasaheb Ambedkar's vision of a more equal and just society," the government said in a press release.
The government said these rules will speed up the process of dispensation of justice to victims of atrocities, are strongly sensitive in cases of offences against women, and liberalize and expedite access to relief for the members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who have been victims of atrocities.
The rules also seek rationalization of the phasing of payment of relief amount to victims for various offences of atrocities.
They also seek regular reviews of the scheme for rights and entitlements of victims and witnesses in accessing justice at the state, district and sub-division level committees in their respective meetings.
The new rules come in the wake of amendment made in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 by Parliament in 2016.
"The amendments made stronger provisions for the protection of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from atrocities against them," the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry said.