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Amendments to SC/ST Act cannot be stayed as it is legislation now: Supreme Court

The new amendments had overturned the March 20 order on rampant misuse of the SC/ST Act and held that there shall be no immediate arrest. It had also said that a public servant can be arrested in cases lodged under the SC/ST Act only after prior approval by the competent authority.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2018 23:22 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Amendment,Schedule Castes and Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,Supreme Court
On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and sought its response in six weeks.(HT/File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the amended Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) passed recently by Parliament restoring the power of police to immediately arrest a person committing an offence under the law but agreed to test its validity.

A bench of justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan agreed orally with the contention made by senior advocate Mohan Parasaran, appearing for one of the three petitioners, that Parliament amended the act “without removing the basis of the judgment passed in the top court on March 20 this year.”

A bench led by justice AK Goel (since retired) had in March ruled that there is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out or where, on judicial scrutiny, the complaint is found to be prima facie malafide.

The court also ruled that a public servant can only be arrested after approval of the appointing authority and a non-public servant after approval by the superintendent of police, which may be granted in appropriate cases, if considered necessary for reasons recorded.

Parasaran, appearing for petitioner, Prathivi Raj Chauhan, said the amendment was unconstitutional, done in haste by the political class for vote bank politics in view of the 2019 general elections.

“We will hear the matter but not grant a stay,” Justice Sikri said.

Parasaran said Parliament passed the amended act without examining the judgment in proper perspective. The Centre was given six weeks to give its response.

Following criticism from the SC/ST community and political parties, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government moved a review petition before the top court, which declined to accept the Centre’s request to stay its own judgment. Later, the Act was amended to nullify the judgment and restore the power of immediate arrest to police and denial of anticipatory bail to the accused person.

The petition stated that both Houses of Parliament cleared the amendment by voice vote, without any discussion or debate.

The plea said that the court cannot remain a “mute spectator to the abuse of law” as “we are living in a civilized society and there were many growing instances of misuse of this Act, there is an apprehension that the amended law would also fast become a new tool of harassment and the arrest on the basis of mere allegation without preliminary enquiry is violation of fundamental rights”.

The Act cannot be converted into a charter for exploitation or oppression by any unscrupulous person or by the police for extraneous reasons against other citizens, the petitioner said. Any harassment of an innocent citizen, irrespective of caste or religion, is against the guarantee of the Constitution.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Sep 07, 2018 20:35 IST