Will not dilute provisions of SC/ST Act: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday said it would not "dilute" the provisions of the SC/ST Act, 1989 and made it clear that its Constitution bench had already held that anticipatory bail could be granted in such matter if the courts feel that no prima facie case is made out.

The apex court reserved its verdict on the petitions challenging the validity of 2018 amendments to The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that had nullified the directions in its verdict last year on March 20, diluting the provisions of arrest under the law.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that the top court had on October 1 recalled the two directions passed last year by its two-judge bench and restored the earlier position of the law.

"We are not diluting these provisions. We are not striking them down. These provisions will stand as it was earlier," said the bench, also comprising justices Vineet Sharan and S Ravindra Bhat.

One of the lawyers appearing in the matter told the bench that high courts have been entertaining petitions seeking quashing of FIRs lodged under the Act.

"We cannot curtail rights under Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty). Do not open the pandora box. Individual cases have to be dealt with separately. We are not deciding these things," the bench said. The top court said it would clarify on the two aspects -- one related to anticipatory bail for offences lodged under the Act and the other regarding provision of holding preliminary enquiry by the police before taking action under the law.

It observed that there cannot be an absolute bar on either grant of anticipatory bail or holding of preliminary enquiry under the Act.

One of the lawyers claimed in the court that police in Uttar Pradesh had not lodged FIRs on complaints filed by some riots victims and instead, cases were registered against them.

"We are not on that. If we will go by individual cases, it would not be good. We should not venture into anything more than the legal issue. We will not pass a long order," the bench said, adding, "Our predecessors (five judge bench) have done everything".

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