The Centre today filed in the Supreme Court a review petition against the March 20 judgment of a two-judge bench which 'diluted" the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by laying down stringent ‘safeguards’ before registering a case under it and banned automatic arrests.
Sources said the petition filed by the Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment argues that the March 20 judgment may dilute the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which was aimed at protecting the socially marginalised. It argues that such a dilution could reduce fear and lead to violations, making Dalits and tribals more vulnerable.
This judgment had triggered protests from Dalit MPs and outfits, including BJP MPs and the party’s allies, who met Social Justice Minister Tawar Chand Gehlot and conveyed their concern that the SC order may end up to denying justice to SC/STs.
They had asked Gehlot to take the matter up with the Prime Minister. Principal opposition party Congress also had demanded filing of a review plea.
A Congress delegation had met the President on the issue.
It is to be noted that Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had also tweeted yesterday: “Review petition by the Government against the SC judgment on SC/ST Protection Act shall be filed positively tomorrow, Monday, April 2.”
Cracking the whip on "the rampant misuse of the SC/ST Act", a bench of justices A K Goel and U U Lalit ruled that there shall be no immediate arrest of a public or no-public servant.
They also ruled that the accused can be taken into custody only after an official not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent (in case of public servant) or SSP (non-public servant) makes an enquiry and is satisfied that a prima-facie case existed.
SC also said that the accused is also entitled to anticipatory bail if the complaint was found to be mala fide.
Laying down safeguards against “misuse” of the Act, the bench had observed in the judgment: “It has been judicially acknowledged that there are instances of abuse of the Act by vested interests against political opponents in panchayat, municipal or other elections, to settle private civil disputes arising out of property, monetary disputes, employment disputes and seniority disputes. It may be noticed that by way of rampant misuse, complaints are largely being filed particularly against public servants/ quasi-judicial/judicial officers with an oblique motive for the satisfaction of vested interests.”