On Monday, a 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Vineet Saran, Arun Mishra, and Ravindra Bhat upheld the constitutionality of the SC/ST Amendment Act, 2019. The Court bulldozed its previous judgment of March 2018 that diluted certain provisions of the Act.
The Parliament had made amendments to the Scheduled Cates and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 2019 such that it nullified the 2018 Supreme Court ruling. The verdict challenging its constitutionality after several PILs were filed was reserved on October 3 last year.
In March 2018, a two-Judge bench of Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit ruled that there would not be automatic arrest on the basis of a complaint filed under the Act. The Court also introduced the provisions of preliminary inquiry by the police and anticipatory bail for the accused.
This prompted the Union Government to file a review petition against the decision. In the review judgment, directions 3, 4, and 5 of the 2018 judgment was kept set aside. As a matter of fact, the amendment to the Act had already nullified the effect of directions 3 and 4. The direction 5 provided for disciplinary action against the cops in case the other two directions were not followed.
However, the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra recalled the March 2018 verdict and ruled the need for a preliminary probe. The Court observed that bail can only be granted where a prima facie case is not made out under the stringent SC/ST Act.
Justice S Ravindra Bhat added that bail can be granted only during “extraordinary” circumstances where “denial of bail” would imply “miscarriage of justice”. The apex court also observed that the directions issued by the 2018 Division Bench were not within the parameters of Article 142 of the Indian constitution.
It has sparked a debate on social media whether the lives of innocent people falsely implicated under the stringent SC/ST Amendment Act matter to the Supreme Court.