The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved judgment on the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 enacted to nullify the effects of the March 20, 2018 judgment of the SC which had diluted the provisions of the Act.
Indicating that the amendments will be upheld, the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat orally observed that the Court will not dilute the Act.
Notably, the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had recalled the conditions introduced by the two judges bench as per the March 20,2018 judgment by allowing the Centre's review.
The review bench observed that the directives issued in Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra are against the concept of protective discrimination in favour of down-trodden classes under Article 15(4) of the Constitution and also impermissible within the parameters laid down by this Court for exercise of powers under Article 142 of Constitution of India. The bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra, Justice MR Shah and Justice BR Gavai observed that there can be no presumption that the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes may misuse the provisions of law as a class. It would be against the basic human dignity to treat all of them as a liar or as a crook person and cannot look at every complaint by such complainant with a doubt, the bench observed.
The petitions filed by Advocates Prathviraj Chauhan, Priya Sharma and few others pray that the 2018 Amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 be struck down as being in the teeth of Articles 14, 19 and 21 and violative of the basic structure of the constitution.
By way of the Amendment, a new section 18A has been inserted in the Act of 1989, which does away with the court-imposed requirements of undertaking preliminary inquiry and of procuring approval prior to making an arrest. It also restores the unconditional ban on the grant of anticipatory bail in the event of an offence under the Act.
The petitioners contend that the amendments were made out of "political pressure", and that the exclusion of the provision for anticipatory bail is arbitrary and unjust.
The petitioners argued that being born in an upper caste cannot be a ground for a presumption of guilt so as to deprive a person of his liberty without an opportunity before an independent forum, that the power of arrest should be exercised only after complying with the safeguards of scrutiny, credible information and just and reasonable procedure under Sections 41 and 41A of the Cr.P.C.