The State government on Monday conceded before the Madras High Court that the State-Level High-Power Vigilance and Monitoring Committee, headed by the Chief Minister, for reviewing implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989, did not meet even once between June 25, 2013, and September 8 this year.
In a counter affidavit filed before Justices M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Secretary Otem Dai said the meetings could not be held due to “administrative reasons”.
The judges, however, pointed out that it was mandatory for the committee to meet at least twice a year, as per statutory rules framed under the Act.
They directed the government to comply with the rules, in letter and in spirit, at least in the future and make sure that the meetings were held every January and July. The direction was issued while disposing of a public interest litigation petition filed by N. Panneerselvam of Coimbatore, through his counsel S. Kumara Devan, seeking a direction for convening the meetings regularly.
‘Task carried out’
Filing a counter to the petition, Mr. Dai said that though the committee, headed by the Chief Minister, did not meet for nearly seven years, the task entrusted to it was successfully carried out by the Chief Secretary and other officials, through monthly and quarterly meetings.
Hence, the review of cases of atrocities against the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes was in no way affected.
He also brought it to the notice of the court that the State-Level High-Power Vigilance and Monitoring Committee was reconstituted last year with the newly-elected members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, and its first meeting was held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on September 8.
During the meeting, issues related to the implementation of the Act, relief and rehabilitation facilities provided to the victims, prosecution of cases under the Act, role of different agencies in implementing the law, and various reports received by the government with regard to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes were discussed, the court was told.