The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the recent amendments brought in to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 in order to nullify the effect of the apex court's ruling putting in safeguards against the immediate arrest.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, however, issued a notice to the Union government on a batch of petitions challenging the amendment introduced on August 9, apparently after huge protests across the country against the apex court's judgement.
As a counsel for petitioner Prithvi Raj Chauhan sought a stay on the amendments, the bench said, “It is now a legislation and cannot be stayed at this stage.”
To this, the counsel said the government has brought in the new provisions to overrule the verdict passed by the court on March 20 and without removing the defects in the law.
“We know that the government has brought in new amendments, that too without removing the defects,” the bench said.
The pleas have sought the declaration of the new amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as ultra vires.
The new amendments had overturned the apex court's decision directing that a public servant can be arrested in cases lodged under the SC/ST Act only after a prior approval by the competent authority.
Petitioners claimed Parliament had "arbitrarily" decided to amend the law and restored the previous provisions in such a manner so that an innocent cannot avail the right of anticipatory bail.
"It is submitted that in context of this SC/ST(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Section 18 A of the Atrocities Act, which excludes Section 438 of CrPC, violates constitutional mandate under Articles 14 and 21," the petitioners claimed.
After these amendments, the structure of the Act has become violative of the "basic principles of liberty and accountability", they contended, adding the court cannot remain a "mute spectator to the abuse of law".