[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court on Tuesday recalled its direction in the last year verdict, which had diluted the provisions under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The order came on a review petition filed by the Central Government against the Subhash Kashninath Mahajan v State of Maharashtra judgement (Mahajan judgment) of March 2018 which had effectively diluted the provisions of the act.
A three-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai has recalled the directions given in the Mahajan judgement which had categorically diluted some of the provisions of the SC/ST Act, 1989 for the sake of preventing the misuse of the Act.
The bench observed SC/ST people still face social abuse and discrimination despite the fact that the Constitution provides for the protection of SC/ST people. Maintaining that the SC/ST community continues to suffer ignominy, it said the misuse of the SC/ST Act is due to human failure and because of the caste system.
The court observed that the directions issued in the March 2018 Mahajan judgement were not called for and were not within the ambit of Article 142 of the Constitution. The apex court said that the “court cannot do what cannot be done by legislature” and set-aside the directions no 3, 4 and 5 as laid down in the March 2018 judgement.
These directions read as follows:
(3) In view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, the arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the S.S.P. which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded. Such reasons must be scrutinized by the Magistrate for permitting further detention.
(4) To avoid false implication of an innocent, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the DSP concerned to find out whether the allegations make out a case under the Atrocities Act and that the allegations are not frivolous or motivated.
(5) Any violation of the above two directions will be actionable by way of disciplinary action as well as contempt.
Refering to the Kartar Singh judgement, the Court observed that taking away the right of anticipatory bail would not amount to a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Thus, prima facie it appears that in the case of misuse of provisions, adequate safeguards are provided in the decision mentioned above.
The court further observed that for lodging a false report, it cannot be said that the caste of a person is the cause. It is due to the human failing and not due to the caste factor.
As division bench comprises of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit on March 20, 2018, had passed a detailed guideline as a safeguard to prevent the misuse of the SC/ST act. The judgement was criticized and resulted in country-wide protests by the SC/ST communities.
Then the Central Government moved to the apex court seeking for review of the judgement. The Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, had said that the March 2018 judgement was not in consonance with the Constitution of India.