What changes did Supreme Court’s March 20 order bring to SC/ST Act and why did Dalits protest?

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New Delhi | April 3, 2018 5:00 PM

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay its earlier order that apparently diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Supreme Court puts stay on its March 20 SC/ST order. (PTI)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay its earlier order that apparently diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Hearing a review petition filed by the Centre seeking a stay on its ruling that changed certain provisions of the SC/ST Act, the apex court refused to stay it’s March 20 order. It also asked all parties to submit detailed replies within two days and posted the matter for hearing after 10 days.

The hearing in the Supreme Court came a day after at least nine people were killed and several others injured as violence marred protests during the Bharat Bandh called in protest against the changes effected as a result of the top court’s order. Taking note of the violence, the SC bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel observed that those protesting on the streets had not read the copy of the judgment properly. “Those agitating on streets may not have even read our judgment. Vested interests are also involved sometimes. We are only concerned about innocent people being put behind bars. We are not against the Act at all. But innocents can’t be punished on unilateral version. Why does government want people to be arrested without verification,” the SC observed.

What changes did the SC order bring to the SC/ST Act?

* On March 20, the top court banned registration of criminal cases and automatic arrests under the SC/ST Act, triggering a nationwide protest by the Dalit community.

* The Supreme court had said that public servants cannot be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority and private citizens can be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.

* It also said that a preliminary inquiry under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to be certain that the allegations are not superficial.

* The amendment in the law was a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.

* Earlier provisions in the Act provided for taking immediate action in respect of any complaint relating to harassment of a victim, informant or witness, etc. Any such complaint shall be tried separately from the main case and be concluded within two months.

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