The Supreme Court has in a dramatic ruling has recalled its own direction in the March 20, 2018, verdict which had virtually diluted provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act.
A bench of justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai said the struggle of SC/ST people for equality is still not over in the country.
The bench said SC/ST people still face untouchability, abuse and are being socially outcast.
The apex court further said the Constitution provides for protection of SC/ST people under Article 15 but they still face social abuse and discrimination.
Dealing with the misuse of provisions of SC/ST Act and lodging of false cases, the bench said it is not due to the caste system but due to human failure.
On September 13, the top court had referred to a three-judge bench the Centre’s plea, which was filed nearly 18 months ago, seeking review of its judgment which had virtually diluted the provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act.
The apex court’s March 20, 2018, verdict had led to a massive outcry and protests by different SC/ST organisations across India after which Parliament passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, to neutralise the effects of the judgment.
In the verdict, the apex court had taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and private individuals and said there would be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law.
It had said on ‘several occasions’, innocent citizens were being termed as accused and public servants deterred from performing their duties, which was never the intention of the legislature while enacting the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The apex court had said that there is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act, if no prima facie case is made out or where the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide.
It had said that in view of the acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP).