Apex court refuses to stay amendments to SC/ST Act

By: | Published: January 25, 2019 2:50 AM

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the proposed amendments to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act that rest-ored the ‘no anticipatory bail’ provision for the accused.

SUPREME COURT, SC ACT, ST ACTApex court refuses to stay amendments to SC/ST Act

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the proposed amendments to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act that rest-ored the ‘no anticipatory bail’ provision for the accu-sed.

Parliament in August had passed the Bill to overturn the apex court order that laid down certain safeguards against arrest under the Act. Apart from seeking a declaration that the new amendments are beyond powers, the petitions also want the new amendments to the atrocities law be declared as ultra vires.

A bench led by Justice AK Sikri, referring the matter to the Chief Justice for reconstitution of a bench which will have Justice UU Lalit as one of its judges, said the petitions against the new amendment will be taken up with the pending review petition filed by the Centre.

The government in April had sought review of the apex court’s March 20, 2018, verdict that laid down stringent ‘safeguards’ on automatic arrest of individuals under the Act. It held that a public servant can be arrested in cases filed under the SC/ST Act only after getting prior approval of the competent authority.

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Justice Lalit was part of a bench which had passed the March 20 ruling that held that there shall be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law.

Attorney General KK Venugopal asked the bench to first decide the review petition and only after that fresh petitions against the amendments could be heard.

However, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioners, questioned the Central government on bringing new law when its review petition was already pending before the top court.

The Centre had moved the apex court seeking that the matter be addressed by the court in an open hearing, saying, “The judgment dated March 20 has widespread ramifications and implications resulting in dilution of the stringent provisions of the law enacted under the 1989 enactment.”

Seeking recall of a judgment that diluted provisions of the anti-atrocities law against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the government had said the order “adversely affects a substantial portion of the population of India being SC/ST members” and “contrary to the legislative policy of the Parliament” as reflected in the Act.

In a written submission, the government had stated that the SC has been misled into thinking it has the power to legislate while diluting the arrest provision in SC/ST Act “leading to confusion and unrest in the country.”

“The court is not filling the gaps but amending through judicial legislation, thereby defeating the salutary provisions,” it stated, adding that “the entire judgment is vitiated by the fact that the apex court proceeds on the basis that it can legislate and has power to make law,” the AG had said on behalf of the Centre.

Venugopal also questioned the direction for seeking prior approval of the appointing authority in case of public servant and the SSP in case of private citizens before arrest on a complaint filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

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