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Supreme Court recalls its order which had virtually diluted the SC/ST Act, allows review petition by centre

With today’s order, the directions issued by the court mandating prior sanction for arrests and preliminary probe before filing FIR stand set aside.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday revoked several provisions of its order issued last year which had diluted the provisions of SC/ST Act. Allowing a review petition filed by the central government, the apex court recalled its order which had prevented automatic arrests in cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act). A three-Judge Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, MR Shah, and BR Gavai issued the judgement, saying that the directions issued by the Division Bench were not called for, and were not within the parameters of Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

On March 20 last year, a Supreme Court bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit had mandated certain guidelines for arrests made under the act to prevent misuse of the act. The order had mandated prior sanction before the arrest of public servants and private individuals under the SC/ST Act, and also made a primary enquiry a requirement before registering an FIR.

The court order had caused massive uproar across the country and it was protested by organisations belonging to SC/ST communities. The central government had filed a review petition against the order last year, and the court had heard the case in April this year. The organisations had also targeted the Modi government, alleging the government didn’t defend their rights at the Supreme Court.

In August last year, the central government had passed an amendment to the Act in the parliament which had effectively reversed the decision of the Supreme Court diluting the act.

With today’s order, the directions issued by the court mandating prior sanction for arrests and preliminary probe before filing FIR stand set aside.

The earlier court order diluting the SC/ST Act had come in the wake of allegations of massive misuse of the act by vested interests for political and personal reasons. But the court ruled today that those directions were against the spirit of the constitution. In a hearing on the review petition on September 18, Justice Mishra had observed that India had still not emerged from the clutches of the social evil of untouchability.

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