Supreme Court refuses to stay SC/ST order, says innocent must be protected

April 4, 2018:The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Terming protests against its judgment on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as “ill-informed” or “misled”, the Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to suspend operation of the verdict and clarified that it had not diluted a single provision of the legislation.

“The judgment is not in conflict with the SC/ST Act. It does not dilute the law in any way. We only flagged one issue – can the liberty of an innocent be taken away without application of mind? We only said protect an innocent from being falsely implicated under the Act, which has stringent provisions. People agitating may not have read the judgment. They may have been misled,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit said.

The bench clarified that its judgment applied only to cases registered under the SC/ST Act and if any offence committed under the Act also involved transgressions under the Indian Penal Code, like disrobing, tonsuring, physical violence or arson, then there was no bar on immediate registration of an FIR. The court was hearing a plea by the Centre seeking an interim stay on the SC’s March 20 order.

The court was hearing a plea by the Centre seeking an interim stay on the SC’s March 20 order, in the wake of violence in several states that accompanied Dalit protests against the apex court decision doing away with mandatory arrest for an offence under the SC/ST Act. The Centre cited loss of lives during protests on Monday, but the SC refused to consider the request.

“We have not restrained registration of FIR but an innocent cannot be thrown behind bars just because a complaint has been made. We said examine its veracity within seven days. Verification can be done within hours.

“If the complaint is genuine, arrest the accused. We have not stopped operation of any of the provisions of the SC/ST Act. We agree that the rights of SCs and STs must be given higher protection. At the same time, the liberty of an innocent too needs protection against frivolous complaints. No complainant can be prosecutor and judge,” it said after taking up the Centre’s review petition for hearing in open court at a threehour notice. Around 99% of review petitions are heard in chamber.

“It agreed to hear the review petition in detail in 10 days and asked the Centre, the Maharashtra gvernment and other interveners to file written submissions stating why the judgment required reconsideration.

Amicus curiae and senior advocate Amarendra Saran said it was a welcome judgment which protected innocents from frivolous complaints without diluting the rigour of the SC/ST Act.

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