The Supreme Court today made it clear that there was no bar either on paying compensation and other immediate relief to victims belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes or registration of FIR under any provision of law in its March 20 verdict putting in place certain safeguards on arrests under the SC/ST Act. The apex court, which entertained the review petition filed by the Centre against the verdict, also said there was “no dilution” of any provision of the SC/ST Act relating to compensation, trial or punishment in its judgement. “A perusal of the order of this court makes it clear that there is no bar to compensation or other immediate relief being given to the victim member of the SC/ST as per the provisions noted above without any delay whatsoever,” a bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit said. “There is also no bar to registration of FIR under any provision of the penal code or any other law and the offences under the SC/ST Act being added later, if necessary. Thus, there is no dilution of any provision of the SC/ST Act relating to compensation, trial, punishment or otherwise,” it said.
The top court also said that its verdict only safeguards the abuse of power of arrest or of false implication of an innocent without affecting the rights of the members of the SC/ST in any manner. Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that according to the 2016 Amendment to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, immediate compensation or other assistance was to be given to the victim belonging to SC/ST. He said if there was a delay in preliminary inquiry, payment of such compensation or other immediate relief might be delayed. Venugopal also said that there might be offences under the provision of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or any other law and direction to hold a preliminary inquiry might delay the registration of cases in respect of such offences.
Senior advocate Amrendra Sharan, who was appointed amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter, argued that the directions in the verdict do not in any manner obstruct the grant of relief as preliminary inquiry can be held forthwith and seven days was the outer limit. He said that compensation was different from registration of FIR or arrest and compensation can be given forthwith, subject to further action. Sharan also argued that there was no obstruction to a case under any other provision being registered forthwith and offence under the SC/ST Act can be added subsequently after the preliminarily inquiry. He said no provision of the SC/ST Act, relating to compensation, trial or punishment, was diluted in any manner and the apex court directions only protects the innocent against abuse of law.
The top court said that the Centre’s review petition will be considered in detail after ten days and the parties in the original case should file their written submissions in two days. Several states were rocked by violence and clashes yesterday following a ‘Bharat bandh’ call given by several SC/ST organisations protesting the top court’s March 20 order. Eleven lives were lost in the violence.