Centre seeks review of apex court verdict on SC/ST Act

The Union government on Monday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court, contending that the March 20 judgement, putting in safeguards in anti-atrocities law, would have wide ramifications, resulting in dilution of the law meant to protect members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

As violent protests broke out in several states, the Centre urged the apex court to reconsider its verdict which stated there cannot be immediate arrest of a public servant or private person on charges made against them under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 without approval from the appointing authority and senior superintendent of police (SSP) respectively.

"Despite various measures to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, they remain vulnerable. They are denied a number of civil rights. They are subjected to various offences, indignities, humiliations and harassment. They have, in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their life and property. Serious crimes are committed against them for various historical, social and economic reasons," its petition said.

Despite the deterrent provisions, continuing atrocities against the members of the SC and ST had been a cause of concern, it added.

"When they assert their rights and resist practice of untouchability or demand statutory minimum wages or refuse to do any bonded or forced labour, the vested interests try to cow them down and terrorise them. When the SCs and STs try to preserve their self-respect or honour of their women, they become irritants for the dominant and the mighty," the government said.

The March 20 judgement has wide implications. It adversely affects a substantial population of India being members of the SC/ST. It is also contrary to the legislative policy of Parliament, it added.

In many states, it would become difficult to implement the apex court's directions as a sufficient number of DySP level officers may not be available to find out if allegations are not frivolous and motivated as directed by the top court's bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit.

"It has escaped the consideration of the apex court that contrary to the assertion of any misuse, the facts and the date have demonstrated a weak implementation of the said Act, thereby endorsing the requirement for a strict interpretation of the deterrent provisions," the Centre said.

Section 18, which contained bar against anticipatory bail, is the backbone of the Act as it enforces an inherent deterrence and instils a sense of protection among the members of the SCs and STs. Any dilution thereof would shake the very objective of mechanism to prevent offences of atrocities, it added.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, meanwhile, declined urgent hearing on a writ petition filed by All India Federation of SC/ST Organisations for reconsideration of the verdict, claiming that the entire nation has witnessed large-scale violence during 'Bharat Bandh'.

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