On Thursday Supreme Court reserved judgement on the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 which was enacted to nullify the effects of the judgement on SC dated March 20, 2018 which had diluted the provision of this Act. It further retreated that it was wrong on the part of the March 20 judgment to treat all SC/ST community members as “a liar or crook”. It was against “basic human dignity”. The aforementioned judgment had diluted the original 1989 legislation, saying they were using its provisions to file false criminal complaints against innocent persons.
The bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat while indicating that the amendment will be upheld, orally observed that the court will not dilute the act.
“We will not be touching anything,” Justice Mishra clarified
The government had brought in the amendments, saying the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes continue to face the same social stigma, poverty, and humiliation to which they have been subjected for centuries.
The two major points of contention in the matter commune to the provision of anticipatory bail and of preliminary inquiry for complaints under the Act.
In regards to anticipatory bail, the Court observed, the Constitution Bench had earlier made it clear that anticipatory bail can be granted in cases where a prima facie case under the SC/ST Act is not made out. This law will stand in the light of the judgment in the review petition delivered on September 30, the Court remarked.
When a lawyer tried to place before the Court instances of misuse of the Act, the Court clarified that such false cases will be decided on their merits.
The court while reserving its judgment in the challenge to the SC/ST Act amendment observed that it will also clarify the point of the power of the police to hold preliminary inquiry before taking action on complaints.
"These provisions (relating to preliminary inquiry) will not be struck down and will stand the way they did under the Lalita Kumari judgment. The law under Justice Goel's judgment has now been struck down."
Justice Mishra further added that all parameters for the preliminary inquiry have been laid down in Lalita Kumari's judgment.
He also hinted that no provisions of the SC/ST Act will be diluted and that the law as it stood prior to the March 2018 judgment will stand.
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