The Supreme Court of India has refused to stay its March 20 order, which supposedly, diluted certain provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Details of the judgement passed on SC/ST Act
Under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, theoretically, a person cannot get anticipatory bail and has to be arrested immediately, in case of any complaint. This often led to false allegations against innocent people, who were framed in false charges (atrocity against SC/ST) to satisfy a personal vendetta of sorts.
According to the March 20 judgement, the Supreme Court of India stated that public servants CANNOT be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority, and private citizens too should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law. It further ruled that preliminary inquiry in a case under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to ensure the allegations are not frivolous.
Effects after the judgement was passed
After hearing this news, there was a massive public uproar from the Dalit community, who were considered to be “misled” and resorted to vandalism of government property. Following this, the Central government had filed a petition seeking review of the apex court’s order banning automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the SC/ST Act. To this, the Supreme Court had decided to reconsider last month’s judgement at a hearing and asked parties to file their written submissions within two days.
SC stays firm on the March 20 judgement on SC/ST Act
Now, the bench has asserted that its ruling in no way dilutes any provision of the SC/ST Act. It stated, “The safeguards were for the purpose that a person should not be readily arrested or an innocent punished because there was no provision of anticipatory bail under the SC/ST Act.”
Terming protests against its judgment on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as “ill-informed” or “misled”, the Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to suspend operation of the verdict and clarified that it had not diluted a single provision of the legislation.
“The judgment is not in conflict with the SC/ST Act. It does not dilute the law in any way. We only flagged one issue – can the liberty of an innocent be taken away without application of mind? We only said protect an innocent from being falsely implicated under the Act, which has stringent provisions. People agitating may not have read the judgment. They may have been misled,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit said.
The bench further clarified that its judgment applied only to cases registered under the SC/ST Act and if any offence committed under the Act also involved transgressions under the Indian Penal Code, like disrobing, tonsuring, physical violence or arson, then there was no bar on immediate registration of an FIR. The court was hearing a plea by the Centre seeking an interim stay on the SC’s March 20 order.
“If the complaint is genuine, arrest the accused. We have not stopped operation of any of the provisions of the SC/ST Act. We agree that the rights of SCs and STs must be given higher protection. At the same time, the liberty of an innocent too needs protection against frivolous complaints. No complainant can be prosecutor and judge,” it said after taking up the Centre’s review petition for hearing.
The Supreme Court has clearly stated that according to this judgement, safeguards were put to avoid false implication of an individual. The SC/ST Act has time and again been widely misused in legal proceedings, similar to the Dowry Prohibition Act.
This judgement strikes a massive blow to such misuse of law in the country.
As a citizen of this country, what are your opinions on this judgement? Do you agree with the judgement passed by the honourable Supreme Court of India?