August 29, 2017
The practice of using caste names by the police even for cases not related to caste issues in Tamil Nadu, activists feel, should be dispensed with.
It is not uncommon in police stations to see the records carrying the caste names of all those who are party to the case – accused, complainant and even the deceased.
“Caste need not be asked for for filing a police complaint or a First Information Report (FIR). It is only optional to mention the caste even in the police reports or records. But, when the witnesses are giving depositions, they are asked to fill an application in which their caste has to be mentioned and this, I feel, is unnecessary,” says advocate P Pugazhenthi.
However, he says a person having his caste name as second or surname cannot be brought under the category, as he has it as part of his name. “The practice of mentioning caste in reports would have originated during the British rule,” Pugazhenthi adds.
CPM leader P R Natarajan also echoes his view about the origin of using caste in police records. “I am sure the practice of getting signatures from five witnesses, who do not belong to the same caste as the deceased, for doing postmortem started with the British era.”
A journalist pointed out that the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, would need one to mention caste of the complainant and also that of the accused.
“Basically, the caste is mentioned for identification. The SC/ST Act cannot be invoked if both the complainant and the accused belong to the Scheduled Caste. If a person from any other caste humiliates, abuses or attacks a Dalit or a tribal, then he can be booked under the Act,” R Murugavel, a Coimbatore-based advocate, explains the fundamentals of the SC/ST Act.
Except cases registered under SC/ST Act and those related to religion and specific issues concerning caste, there is no necessity for the cops to insist for the caste in which the accused or the complainant happened to have born, rights activists say.