New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday partially amended its own order in March last year forbidding automatic arrest and registration of FIR without any inquiry on complaints under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989.
The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai held on a review petition of the Modi government against dilution of the Act that the March 20, 2018, order was "against the spirit of the Constitution." The order had set in place guidelines to prevent misuse of the Act by which the automatic arrests on complaints was stopped. The Bench on Tuesday recalled the directions mandating prior sanction for arrest of a public servant.
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.
In the verdict on the review petition, the Court said the struggle for equality and civil rights of SC/ST communities was still not over. They are still discriminated, the Supreme Court observed. It said untouchability has not vanished and rued that those involved in scavenging had still not been provided modern facilities. The Centre had moved the review petition in the Supreme Court even while getting the Act amended by Parliament to remove its dilution in the Court order that had led to a political uproar with many Dalit outfits targeting the Modi government alleging it did not defend the rights of the SC/ST communities in the Supreme Court.
In the previous hearing on September 18, the Supreme Court bench had reserved its order in the matter. It had then agreed with the Centre's contention that the 2018 order was "against the spirit of the Constitution."