A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra and UU Lalit today referred to a three-judge bench the review petitions filed by the Central Government and a resident of Maharashtra Bhaskar Gaikwad against its judgment of March 2018 that diluted the stringent provisions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Pronouncing the order, Justice Mishra said, “Considering the importance of the matter, we feel that these matters should be heard by a three judge bench next week”
Citing rampant misuse of the SC/ST Act, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising the then Justice A K Goel and Justice UU Lalit had ordered that on an information received about the commission of an offence solely falling under the square and ambit of the SC/ST Act, a preliminary inquiry may first be conducted so as to ascertain the veracity and genuineness of the allegations before registering an FIR to such effect.
It was also laid down that the arrest of a public servant can only be after an approval of appointing authority and of a non-public servant after the approval of the Senior Superintendent of Police, which is to be granted in appropriate cases.
To compound this, it was furthermore added that any violation of the afore-mentioned directions would be actionable by way of disciplinary action as well as contempt.
The Central Government had filed a review petition against the said decision on the premise that the Order issuing directions by it had the potential to reduce the deterrent impact of the Act and thereby would expose the Dalits and tribals to increased vulnerable situations.
It also added that judgment rendered by the Apex Court is a clear case of judicial amendment to the SC/ST Act and that the judgment has affected the morale and confidence of the people belonging to the SC/STs category.
The apex court though allowed the open court hearing of the review petition filed by the Central Government, refused to stay its controversial directions.
Taking note of the widespread resentment in the country among the SC/STs community, the Central Government decided to bring a law to nullifying the court’s directions diluting the SC/ST Act.
Resultantly, in August 2018, Parliament passed ‘The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018’ which had reversed the effect of the Supreme Court’s judgment dated March 20, 2018 diluting the stringent provisions of the SC/ST Act, 1989 such as no anticipatory bails and preliminary enquiries in the cases of atrocities reported under the SC/ST Act, 1989.
Multiple petitions challenging the amendment act are pending consideration before the apex court.