SC/ST Act hearing: ‘Not against the Act, but innocent can’t be put behind bars’ – key observations by the Supreme Court

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New Delhi | Updated: April 4, 2018 7:48:16 AM

In its last month order, the Supreme Court had diluted certain provisions, prohibiting automatic arrest of government servants. It had also introduced a provision of seeking anticipatory bail by the accused persons.

SC/ST Act, Supreme CourtSC/ST Act: SC refuses to stay its March 20 order

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to stay its March 20 order that diluted certain provisions under The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The court said that it will not pass any interim order to stay its order last month. The apex court was hearing the Centre’s petition seeking a review of its judgement.

The SC bench headed by CJI Justice Dipak Misra, however, said that it will consider in detail the government’s plea and posted the matter for further hearing after 10 days. The SC’s order triggered a nationwide outrage, with people taking to the streets and resorting to violence. Nine persons were killed yesterday in different parts of the country over the court’s judgement.

During today’s hearing, the bench also comprising Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit made some strong observations while referring to the violent protests. It also directed the Maharashtra government and others to file written submission by then.

Here’s what transpired at the SC during hearing of Centre’s review petition:

1. The Supreme Court today said that people who are agitating have not read the verdict properly. When Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court that that the SC/ST have been subjected to tremendous atrocities for hundreds of years and that the victim is entitled to the protection under Article 21, the court replied that it was never against the Act. “We are not against the Act at all. We are only concerned with innocent people being put behind bars,” said Justice Goel.

2. When the AG said to the court that its March 20 judgment was based on its understanding that the Act has been abused and could thus not be a ground to dilute the provisions of the Act, the court replied saying that it had only dealt with the the provision of arrest within the law. “We have only reiterated the settled law of arrest, the settled law under CrPC,” the court said.

3. Taking note of the violence that marred several parts of the country on Monday, the court said that people have been misled by vested interests.

4. The apex court said that it has not diluted the provisions, instead only added safeguards to protect innocents from being arrested.

5. In some harsh observations, the court said that provisions under the law can’t be used to terrorise the innocent people.

The government had on Monday filed a review petition in the SC urging it to pass an interim order staying its March 20 changes. It said that the judgement will make the law ineffective and deprive the SC/ST people rights promised by the Constitution.

In its order, the court had diluted some provisions, prohibiting the automatic arrest of government officials mere on the basis of complaints. The court had also introduced a provision of seeking anticipatory bail by the accused persons among others.

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