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SC upholds validity of SC/ST Amendment Act


New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the amendments made to SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act restoring certain provisions including that anticipatory bail cannot be granted to the accused under this law.

Unless provisions of the act are enforced in their true letter and spirit, “the dream and ideal of a casteless society will remain only a dream, a mirage”, the top
court said.

It said that last year while dealing with the review petition of the Centre on the 2018 verdict, the court had recalled most of its directions which had diluted the provisions of arrest under the Act.

The top court’s verdict on Monday came on a batch of PILs challenging the validity of the SC/ST Amendment Act of 2018, which was brought to nullify the effect of the apex court’s 2018 ruling that diluted the provisions of the stringent act.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat said that most of the general

directions like that of preliminary inquiry, grant of bail, prior approval from senior police officials and appointing authority have been recalled in its 2019 verdict on the Centre’s review petition.

“The Union of India had filed review petitions, and the same have been allowed, and direction Nos (iii) to (v) have been recalled. Thus, in view of the judgment passed in the review petitions, the matter is rendered of academic importance as we had restored the position as prevailed by various judgments that were in vogue before the matter of Dr Subhash Kashinath (2018 verdict) was decided,” the bench said.

The top court said a preliminary inquiry before lodging of case is permissible only in the circumstances as per the law laid down by a 2014 Constitution bench verdict in Lalita Kumari versus government of Uttar Pradesh.

Dealing with the provision of bail, the bench said, it shall not apply to the cases under SC/ST Act but if the complaint does not make out a prima facie case for offences under the law then the bar created by amended provisions shall not apply.  

“The court can, in exceptional cases, exercise power under section 482 CrPC for quashing the cases to prevent misuse of provisions on settled parameters, as already observed while deciding the review petitions,” the bench said.

Justice Bhat, who wrote a separate but concurring verdict said, “I consider such stringent terms, otherwise contrary to the philosophy of bail, absolutely essential, because a liberal use of the power to grant pre-arrest bail would defeat the intention of Parliament”.

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