SC: Can’t carry Raj-era bias to tag castes, tribes ‘history-sheeters’ – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Supreme Court had ruled that police cannot carry colonial era biases against persons belonging to certain tribes and scheduled castes to mechanically brand them in their records as ‘bad characters’ or ‘history-sheeters” and said such archaic mindset violated individuals’ right to dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
After nudging the Delhi Police to amend the format for history-sheeters, which was copied from 90-year-old Punjab Police Rules of 1934, to exclude the minor children and wife of a person from getting included with him as a bad character, a bench of Justices Surya Kant and K V Vishwanathan on Tuesday asked all states to revisit their rules within six months regarding inclusion of a person in police’s ‘history-sheeter/bad character’ record and weed out colonial era biases from relevant provisions.
After deciding the case from Delhi, the bench resorted to its suo motu jurisdiction and examined the desirability of ensuring that no mechanical entries in ‘history sheet’ are made of innocent individuals, simply because they hail from socially, economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, along with those belonging to backward communities, SCs and STs.
Referring to certain studies on this aspect and without going into their authenticity, Justice Kant-led bench said these reveal a pattern of an unfair, prejudicial and atrocious mindset as they allege that police diaries are maintained selectively of individuals belonging to vimukta jatis (denotified tribes that were listed originally under Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, as criminal tribes because of their alleged addiction to committing crimes) reflecting biases of colonial times.
Writing the judgment, Justice Kant said, “All state governments are expected to take necessary preventive measures to safeguard such communities from being subjected to inexcusable targeting or prejudicial treatment. We must bear in mind that these preconceived notions often render them ‘invisible victims’ due to prevailing stereotypes associated with their communities, which may often impede their right to live a life with self-respect.” “Value for human dignity and life is deeply embedded in Article 21. The expression ‘life’ unequivocally includes the right to live a life worthy of human honour and all that goes along with it. Self-regard, social image, and an honest space for oneself in one’s surrounding society, are just as significant to a dignified life as are adequate food, clothing, and shelter,” he said.
Referring to the court-nudged amendments to the Delhi Police rules on history-sheeter/bad character, the bench said ‘Delhi Model’ would serve as a critical tool for states to weed out biases against certain tribes, castes and communities while preparing the internal record of history-sheeters.
It directed the states and UTs to “revisit their policy-regime and consider whether suitable amendments on the pattern of the Delhi Model” and asked the SC registry to send copies of the judgment to chief secretaries and DGPs for compliance within six months.

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