Supreme Court refuses to stay amendment passed by government in the SC/ST Act

The government had made an amendment to the SC-ST Act to reverse the SC order diluting few provisions in the Act

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice AK Sikri has refused to stay the Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, passed by Central Government. By the Amendments, the government had inserted section 18(A) in the SC/ST act, in order to reverse the Apex Court’s March 2018 verdict diluting the Act citing its rampant misuse.

The Supreme Court bench observed that plea challenging its March 2018 verdict and plea challenging the Amendment Act, must be heard together and said that “No interim order can be passed in these matters”. The pleas against the Amendment Act, 2018 were filed by Senior advocate Vikas Singh and advocate Gopal Sankaranarayana, who alleged that Parliament had “arbitrally” decided to amend the law, without any regards to its misuse.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, representing the central government, also said that the court should first hear the review petition filed by the government against the Supreme Court order diluting the act before any new petition is taken up in the matter.

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In March 2018, the Supreme Court while passing the verdict in the Dr Subhash Kashinath Mahajan vs The State Of Maharashtra case had ruled that additional safeguards must be provided to civil servants before arresting them in a complaint registered under Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities), 1989. It had said that the approval of an appointing authority, a non-public servant and an S.S.P is required for arresting a public servant under the act. The safeguards were added to avoid misuse of the act against public servants.

This had raised concerns among the SC/ST community. They had also felt that the judgement would dilute the provisions of the act which protect the community from atrocities. This had given birth to widespread pandemonium in the country.

Following this, the Modi government had filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against this ruling which contended that the order will weaken the provision of this act, which could result in more violence against Dalits.

Not only this, but the government had also tabled an amendment in parliament, to neutralize the dilutions imposed by the court. It nullified need of conduct of a preliminary enquiry before registration of an FIR, or to seek approval of any authority prior to arrest of an accused, and to restore the provisions of Section 18 of the Act. It also denied the alleged person right to go for Anticipatory Bail.  The Amdnement was passed in Lok Sabha on 6th August 2018. In Rajya Sabha too the act was passed subsequently.

The bench now had escalated the matter to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, to ascertain whether the review petitions and the plea against amendments, are to be heard or not.

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