08-09-2018-Supreme Court to examine validity of SC/ST Act amendment, seeks government reply

September 8, 2018:The Times of India

NEW DELHI: A month after Parliament amended the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to overturn a Supreme Court verdict introducing a provision for anticipatory bail, the legislation was back in the apex court with two PILs challenging the validity of the amendment.

A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan agreed to hear the PILs and issued notice to the Centre to justify the validity of the amendment within six weeks. It, however, refused to stay operation of the law.

The amendment, approved by Parliament on August 9, ruled out anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs. The legislation also provided that no preliminary enquiry would be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest would not be subject to any approval.

The Centre brought the amendment after nationwide protests against the SC order which said there would be no automatic arrest and police must conduct a preliminary enquiry within seven days before taking any action.

Expressing concern over rampant misuse of the act, the SC had stepped in to provide safeguards to innocent people and introduced the provision of anticipatory bail despite Section 18 of the act saying pre-arrest bail would not apply to persons committing an offence under the law.

Challenging the changed law, the petitioners alleged that the Centre brought the amendment to derive political mileage and it had committed the same mistake as the Rajiv Gandhi government when the apex court order in the Shah Bano case was overturned.

“The rare move was adopted by the central government to get political mileage and under pressure from alliance partners and also worried over the prospects of antagonising the huge vote bank ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls,” the petition said.

It said that the act was being misused to frame innocent people and the SC was right in providing protection to prevent misuse of the act as an instrument to “blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance”.

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