Verdict on anti-atrocities law caused disharmony in country, Centre tells SC

The Union government has asked the Supreme Court to recall a judgement "diluting" provisions of the anti-atrocities law against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, saying it has resulted into "great damage" to the country.

It claimed the judgement delivered on March 20 "dealing with an issue of very sensitive nature caused a lot of commotion, anger, unease and a sense of disharmony".

"The confusion created by this judgement may have to be corrected by reviewing it and recalling the directions," Attorney General K K Venugopal said.

Hearing the Centre's review petition, the court had on April 3 refused to keep its March 20 verdict in abeyance, saying it has merely put in safeguards against the arrest of innocent without diluting any provision of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

In a written submission filed in the top court, Venugopal questioned the direction for seeking prior approval of the appointing authority in case of public servant and the SSP in case of private citizens before arrest on a complaint filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. "This requirement is in the teeth of the provisions of the Atrocities Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure Code," he submitted.

"The court is not filling the gaps but amending through judicial legislation, thereby defeating the salutary provisions," he said.

The direction for a preliminary enquiry by a DSP level officer on a complaint again violated the Constitution bench judgement in Lalita Kumari's case (2014), which directed for immediate registration of the FIR in case of cognisable offence, he said.

Venugopal said, to compound all this, the court declares that any violation of its directions would be actionable by way of disciplinary proceedings as well as contempt.

"The bland statement (by the court) that 'the power to declare law carries with it, within the limits of duty, to make law when none exists' is wholly fallacious as we live under a written Constitution, of which the separation of power between the legislatures, executives and the judiciary, is the very basic structure and is inviolable," he submitted.

"What else, therefore, does it mean, if in the teeth of the separation of powers, the highest court in the country, bound to uphold the Constitution and hence not to encroach upon that area reserved for Parliament and the legislature, can lay down law contrary to a statute," he added.

The top law officer also pointed out validity of Section 18 of the Act has already been upheld in 1995 in the 'Ram Kishna Balothia' case, therefore anticipatory bail cannot be granted in any case under the Atrocities Act.

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