“We are not against the SC/ST Act but innocent should not be punished”: SC; No stay on SC/ST judgment [Full Report]

Supreme Court: While hearing the review petition filed by the Central Government against the judgement dated 20.03.2018, the Bench of AK Goel and UU Lalit refused to stay the SC/ST Act verdict. The Government has filed the review petition after the Dalit outfits called for a nationwide Bandh on Monday i.e. 02.04.2018 against the verdict of the Court. At least nine people have been killed across the country due to violent protests which marred the Bharat Bandh.

The grounds for review as pointed out by Attorney General KK Venugopal are:

  • as per Rule 12(4) and (4A) read with Annexure-I of the 2016 Amendment to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, immediate compensation or other assistance has to be given to victim belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. If there is delay in preliminary inquiry, payment of such compensation or other immediate relief may be delayed.
  • there may be offences under the provision of the Indian Penal Code or any other law and direction to hold preliminary inquiry may delay registration of case in respect of such other offences also.
  • the directions are in conflict with the provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Stating that the order only safeguards abuse of power of arrest or of false implication of an innocent without in any manner affecting the rights of the members of the SC/ST, the Court said:

“A perusal of the order of this Court makes it clear that there is no bar to compensation or other immediate relief being given to the victim member of the SC/ST as per the provisions noted above without any delay whatsoever. There is also no bar to registration of F.I.R. under any provision of the penal code or any other law and the offences under the SC/ST Act being added later, if necessary. Thus, there is no dilution of any provision of the SC/ST Act relating to compensation, trial, punishment or otherwise.”

In it’s verdict, the Bench had acknowledged the abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (the Atrocities Act) and had said that the legislature never intended to use the Atrocities Act as an instrument to blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance nor was it intended to deter public servants from performing their bona fide duties. It was, hence, held that unless exclusion of anticipatory bail is limited to genuine cases and inapplicable to cases where there is no prima facie case was made out, there will be no protection available to innocent citizens. It said:

“mere unilateral allegation by any individual belonging to any caste, when such allegation is clearly motivated and false, cannot be treated as enough to deprive a person of his liberty without an independent scrutiny.”

During the hearing of the review petition, the Court again said:

“we are not against the Act but innocent should not be punished.”

Noticing that the matter may have to be heard and considered further, the Court asked all parties to submit detailed replies within two days and listed the matter after 10 days. [Union of India v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 323, order dated 03.04.2018]

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