SC/ST Act: SC review verdict on October 3

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday indicated to pass a verdict on October 3 on the Centre's review petition against its judgment in March last year in a Maharashtra case, diluting various stringent provisions of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, including immediate non-bailable arrest without verification.

The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and Shripathi Ravindra Bhat said only after the verdict on the review petition, the Court will take up a bunch of petitions opposing the amendments to restore the provisions struck down that were passed by Parliament in the wake of the nationwide protests.

The Apex Court had refused to stay its verdict of 20.03.2018 in April last year while entertaining the Centre's review petition citing large-scale violence in protest.

The verdict by then Bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and Uday U Lalit had come on an appeal of Dr Subhash Kashinath Mahajan, the Director of Technical Education in Maharashtra, against proceedings launched against him under the atrocities law on a complaint in 2006 in Karad by a store keeper in a government pharmacy college.

Mahajan had come in appeal against the Bombay High Court refusing to quash the case even while granting him an anticipatory bail.

The Court had put a score of riders on the atrocities act, claiming its rampant abuse, that was protested by all political parties as removing the very teeth of the Act meant to protect the SC and ST community members.

The judgment under review put a stop to automatic arrest on a complaint filed under the atrocities act and inserted provision of anticipatory bail and preliminary police probe before any arrest.

The matter was posted before the 3-judge Bench since the Bench of Justice Mishra and Justice U Lalit on September 13 split on the issue and chose to refer the matter to a larger Bench.

Since Justice Mishra continues to head the new Bench, there was no need of de-novo hearing as it reserved ruling on September 18 after a brief hearing.

The Centre had moved the Court to review its verdict that caused a backlash from the SC/ST community against the decision with widespread protests across the country.

The political parties also closed ranks to oppose what they called dilution of the provisions meant to protect Dalits and Adivasis from atrocities and excesses.

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