Jan 5, 2021

The provision in the Prevention of Atrocities act, 1989 related to the constitution of Special Courts

Chapter IV Section 14 of the Act provides for Exclusive Special court.

According to this section, the state government shall with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification in the official gazette, establish Special court for one or more Districts to exclusively try the offences under the act the purpose of which is to provide a speedy trial.

It shall be the duty of the state government to establish an adequate number of Special Court to ensure that cases under the act are disposed of within two months from the date of filing the Charge sheet.

The act further provides in section 15 that for every Special Court, the State Government shall by notification in the official gazette, specify a Public Prosecutor or appoint an advocate who has been practicing as an advocate for not less than seven years, as special Public Prosecutor to conduct cases in that court.

Powers of the special court under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (POA) Act, 1989.

The Special Court or designated court of sessions shall have the power to directly take cognizance of offences under this act.

This Power of Court was extensively discussed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Raj Mal Vs Rathan Singh and another,1998 and held that under section 14 of SC & ST (PoA) Act, 1989 the Special Court has the power to take cognizance of the case and the case need not be preceded by committal of a case by Magistrate. 

The High Court observed that the Judicial Magistrate has no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint under this act. In contrast, the Special Court constituted under section 14 of the act can entertain the complaint and take cognizance and that it is not necessary that the case must be committed to the Special Court by Magistrate as in other Sessions cases.

On 23rd March 2004 Supreme Court in Moly and Anr vs the State Of Kerala took a contrary view and held that The Act contemplates only the trial to be conducted by the Special Court. 'Special Court' is defined in the act as a Court of Session specified as a Special Court in Section14.  Thus the Court of Session is specified to conduct a trial, and no other Court can conduct the trial of offences under the act. 

Also as per section 193 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, unless it is expressly provided differently by this Code, no Court of Session can take cognizance of any offence directly, without the case being committed to it by a Magistrate. 

Neither in the Code nor the act is there any provision whatsoever, nor given by implication, that the Special Court can take cognizance of the offence under the Act as Court of original jurisdiction without the case being committed to it by a Magistrate. Taking this into consideration there is no reason to think that the charge sheet or a complaint can straightway be filed before such a Special Court for offences under the act.

 On 30th July 2004 Andhra Pradesh High Court in Ammula Raji Reddy, Vs State of A.P  held that under section 14 of SC & ST (PoA) Act, 1989, the Special Judge cannot take cognizance of offence by way of taking charge sheet straightaway without committal of a case from concerned Magistrate.


After reading the above laws and relevant judgements, it can be conferred that the Special Court Established under Prevention of Atrocities act is not empowered to take cognizance of a complaint without the case being committed to it by a Magistrate.

Despite having made a provision for Establishing Special Court to try offences under the Act, Atrocities against SC ST are increasing every year, precisely because these communities are being targeted under religious and cultural dominance working with political pressures.

Unfortunately, this year has created an economic burden due to Pandemic wherein the Dalits are more hopeless for food and labour.

Despite the determent guarantee by the SCs & STs Act for a speedy trial, the numerical increase in atrocities has not stopped. Nor has the response from the different government agencies in the country (police, district and state-level monitoring committees, district and state-level vigilance committees, public prosecutors, special courts, etc.) been satisfactory.