Citizen’s Vigilance and Monitoring Committee

11 September 2021

On the 32nd anniversary of passing of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989,over 100 delegates of the citizen’s vigilance and monitoring committees (CVMCs) from across Tamil Nadu gathered for an online release of their annual PoA Status of Implementation report for the calendar year 2020. Dignitaries such as Thol Tirumavalavan, Paul Divakar, Advocates Jayna Kothari and Bhavani Mohan, graced the occasion along CVMC members from all 38 districts.

This year the human rights defenders at convention took stock of the implementation of the PoA act in the background of the pandemic through most of 2020. Contrary to expectations, the third annual status report and district fact sheets released on the occasion revealed that:
● Recorded atrocities actually increased by 12% (from 1144 in 2019 to 1274 in 2020) despite the lockdown.
● Murders increased by 11.4% when it decreased by 4.8% in the state.
● Rapes increased by over 17 percent (102 to 119) year on year. In contrast, the incidence of rape (of all women) in the state increased by 7.4% (from 362 to 389) – a more than 100% difference in intensity.
● Of the 126 rape victim-survivors, 81 are children – 64%.
● Over 30% of the rapes are inflicted on them (about 50% more than their proportion in the population).
The state monitoring mechanisms barely functioned.
● State vigilance and monitoring committee: It took the threat of an adverse court order for the chief minister to conduct the state vigilance and monitoring committee meeting – just one day before the court verdict. The previous one, also conducted a day before the court verdict, was in 2013 – though these are statutory
meetings to be held every January and July.
● District vigilance and monitoring committee: Only 64 of 148 meetings were held (43% compliance).
● Sub-divisional vigilance and monitoring committees: Of the 85 subdivisions in 37 districts of Tamil Nadu,
sub-divisional committees have not been constituted in 15 of 37 districts, and only in some in a further five.
Only 8% of the statutory meetings (28 of 340) were held. Of the 44 committees constituted, the majority (24,55%) did not conduct any meeting.
● Monthly status reports (Rule 4(4)) were not sent by the district collector to the ADGP, Social Justice and Human Rights Wing, who therefore did not consolidate and send the reports (Rule 8(1)(xi)) to the nodal officer.
● 12 districts had a conviction rate of zero percentage. Overall conviction rate is just 25%. For rape the conviction rate is just 14%. (conviction rate for IPC crimes is 66% and for special local laws (SLL) – of which PoA is one – is 93.6%).
● 11 districts did not conclude a single trial.
● The delays in investigations and trial, further delayed the payment of relief and compensation (which is tied to the stage of investigation and trial) and therefore adversely impacted on the socio-economic rehabilitation of the affected. This was on top of the ravages of the pandemic.

Shockingly, Advocate S Bagat Singh who was removed as the exclusive sspecial public prosecutor (ESPP) in 2019 from
Tirunelveli ‘for not pleading the POA act related cases effectively’, was appointed ESPP for Thoothukudi in 2020.

In 2020, the state mechanisms failed in prevention, in administration of justice, and in socio-economic rehabilitation at
all levels – state, district, and sub-divisional. The increase and intensity of crime make it all the more necessary for the
state, district, and subdivisional vigilance and monitoring mechanisms to fulfil their duty rigorously and regularly.
With the change in government in May 2020, there are signs of hope. Constituting the state vigilance and monitoring
committee and conducting its meeting within 100 days of assuming office is a record not only in the state, but also in the country. The convention congratulated the chief minister, and resolved to support the manifesto promise of eradicating manual scavenging in 10 years. The convention ended by remembering the human rights defenders who passed away in the last one year