SC/ST Act ruling: No stay on order but SC will reconsider it in 10 days

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today refused to stay its March 20 order diluting certain provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
It, however, will reconsider last month’s judgment at hearing after 10 days and asked parties to file their written submissions within two days.
While hearing observations by attorney general K K Venugopal on a review petition filed by the Centre + , the apex court said: “We are not against the Act. Innocent should not be punished.”
The NDA government had yesterday filed a petition seeking review of the apex court’s order banning automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the SC/ST Act.
SC today said the judgment in no way dilutes any provision of the SC/ST Act or rules, asserting that the Act does not mandate immediate arrest on filing of complaint.
“We have not diluted any provision of SC/ST Act and only safeguarded interest of innocents from being arrested. Provisions of the Act cannot be used to terrorise the innocents,” the court said.
“The SC/ST Act is a substantive law and we have just asked that implementation of it would require adherence to procedural law as given in criminal procedure code,” the bench elaborated.
In its March 20 ruling, the apex court said public servants can’t be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority, and private citizens too should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law. It further ruled that preliminary inquiry in a case under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to ensure the allegations are not frivolous.
The amendment in the law was a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.

However, the ruling angered the Dalit community, which staged massive protests, culminating in a nationwide shutdown yesterday. The agitation took a violent turn as protesting mobs vandalised public and private property and clashed with the police. Nine people were killed in the violent protests and curfew was imposed in Gwalior and Morena.