Supreme Court to consider petition challenging the recently passed vote-bank-pleasing SC/ ST atrocity law

Was the amendment to SC/ ST bill that was passed recently done without adequate debate?

Was the amendment to SC/ ST bill that was passed recently done without adequate debate?
Was the amendment to SC/ ST bill that was passed recently done without adequate debate?

The beauty of the Indian democracy is the power of the Courts to challenge the Acts, sometimes in haste and sometimes to please the vote banks of the political parties and the Government. In a bid to capture the Dalit and Tribal vote banks, sadly all political parties in India united and passed new SC/ ST amendment in Parliament to overcome the Supreme Court’s recent judgment nullifying the draconian provisions in the SC/ ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Today a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to quash this amendment passed by cunning politicians. This cooked up amendment provides immediate arrest based on just a complaint filed by persons from SC/ ST community and also prevents bail to the accused persons.

The court had said that on “several occasions”, innocent citizens were being termed as accused and public servants deterred from performing their duties, which was never the intention of the legislature while enacting the SC/ ST Act.

We must remember that this draconian amendment to overcome the Supreme Court judgment was nothing but an act of cruelty on the citizens of India by the political leadership of all parties. As per the old Act, anyone can be arrested without probe if any person from SC/ ST community files a complaint to the Police. No bail is allowed under this draconian law. After finding the gross misuse of law, a Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justices Adarsh Goel and UU Lalit froze these provisions and issued guidelines on how to deal with the complaints and arrest was allowed only after a probe and the right to get bail was restored.  But the Government and all political parties ditched the citizens’ rights by passing new amendments in the Act to overcome the judgment! Now this Act of Parliament is being challenged. Good for the democratic rights in the country.

A petition filed on Tuesday before the Supreme Court seeking to declare the fresh amendments in the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act made by Parliament, as ultra vires. The plea filed by an advocate alleged that both Houses of the Parliament had “arbitrarily” decided to amend the law and restored the previous provisions in such a manner that an innocent cannot avail the right of anticipatory bail.

The Parliament on August 9 had passed a bill to overturn the apex court order concerning certain safeguards against arrest under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe law. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha. It had got the nod of the Lok Sabha on August 6. Sadly no Parliamentarian showed the guts to argue against this mobocratic move by the Government, supported by all parties.

The bill rules out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/ STs, notwithstanding any court order. It provides that no preliminary inquiry will be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any approval. The legislation also provides that no preliminary enquiry will be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any appeal.

The Supreme Court had on March 20 taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ ST Act against government servants and held that there shall be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law. It had passed a slew of directions and said a public servant can be arrested in cases lodged under the SC/ ST Act only after prior approval by the competent authority.

The petition filed by Advocate Prithvi Raj Chauhan said the amendment was passed by the voice vote, “without any discussion or debate”, while a petition seeking review of the March 20 judgment was still pending before the apex court.

“This rare move was adopted by the respondent (government) to get political mileage and as the respondent was under pressure from alliance partner and also worried over the prospects of antagonising a huge vote bank of Dalits ahead of parliamentary elections,” the plea said.

It sought to “declare the provisions inserted in the new amendment of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as ultra vires to the Article 14, 19 and 21 of Constitution of India.”

“A Stay on the provision of new amendment in Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 during the pendency,” it said. The March 20 judgment had faced a nationwide protest by the various Dalit organisations forcing the Government and political parties to support the mobocracy, while ignoring the merits of the apex court judgment to restore the basic rights of the citizens.

The apex court had on March 20 virtually diluted the stringent provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act mandating immediate arrest under the law.

The court had said that on “several occasions”, innocent citizens were being termed as accused and public servants deterred from performing their duties, which was never the intention of the legislature while enacting the SC/ ST Act.

The Centre had later moved the apex court seeking review of the verdict saying it has “diluted” the provisions of the law, resulting in “great damage” to the country. It had said the verdict, which had dealt with an issue of a “very sensitive nature”, has caused “commotion”, “anger, unease and a sense of disharmony” in the country.

While hearing the Review Petition filed by the Centre, the apex court had said that even Parliament cannot allow the arrest of a person without a fair procedure and asserted that it has protected the fundamental rights to life and liberty of innocents by ordering prior scrutiny of complaints.

Team PGurus

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