Why the Supreme Court has withdrawn its earlier order which diluted the provisions of the SC/ST Act?

Published: October 3, 2019

The Supreme Court has recalled its direction in a 2018 verdict which had virtually diluted provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act.

2018 Verdict of Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court had held that safeguards against blackmail are necessary since by way of rampant misuse, complaints are largely being filed against public servant/ judicial officer/ quasi-judicial officer with an oblique motive for the satisfaction of vested interests.
  • The Supreme Court had laid down safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail and a “preliminary enquiry” before registering a case under the Act.
  • The Supreme Court noted that the Atrocities Act cannot be converted into a charter for exploitation or oppression by unscrupulous persons or by police for extraneous reasons.
  • The SC ordered that neither is an FIR must be immediately registered nor are arrests to be made without a preliminary inquiry by an SSP. An arrest can only be made if there is “credible” information and the police officer has “reason to believe” that an offence was committed.
  • Even if a preliminary inquiry is held and a case registered, the arrest is not necessary, and no public servant must be arrested without the written permission of the appointing authority.

Review of Earlier Judgment

  • Provision of Anticipatory bail was denied to instil a sense of deterrence. Denial of anticipatory bail does not violate Article 21.
  • The public servants already have a remedy against false cases under CrPC Section 482 and can get such FIRs quashed by High Courts. Hence there is no need for an SSP’s approval for arrest.
  • The decision on an arrest must be taken by the investigating authority, not the appointing authority.
  • Quashing the earlier checks imposed by the 2018 verdict the Supreme Court held that such riders for registering the FIR are wrong and it would give an advantage to upper castes whose complaints can be registered without any such inquiry.
  • The protective discrimination has been envisaged under Article 15 of the Indian Constitution and the provisions of the Act of 1989 to make them equals.
  • The directions encroached upon the field reserved for the legislature.

The 2018 verdict had led to huge protests by the SC/ST community. This even resulted in government amending the law to negate the March 2018 verdict and bring back the stringent conditions stipulated in the 1989 law. The recalling of its earlier verdict by the Supreme Court comes as a huge relief to the government and absolves it from further litigations questioning the validity of the amended law.

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