SC refuses to consider plea for stay on Atrocities Act

Last Updated 24 January 2019, 15:24 IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to consider a plea for staying the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, that "neutralised" effect of a top court judgement diluting the law meant to protect the members of the "oppressed community."

A three-judge bench presided over by Justice A K Sikri said since the review petitions against the March 20, 2018 judgement were pending, it was more appropriate that the writ petitions against the amendment be heard together.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh and advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for some of the private parties, contended the amendment was going to create chaos if the people continued to be arrested under false charges.

Sankaranarayanan too, said since the review petitions were already pending against the March 20 judgement, the amendment to the law must be kept in abeyance.

The bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah, refused to pass any order on their plea. But the court allowed the counsel to mention the matter before the Chief Justice of India to ensure both the review petitions and writ petition against the amendment were heard together.

Attorney General K K Venugopal suggested for hearing both the review petitions filed by the Union government and the writ petitions should be heard together since questions involved were the same.

Notably, Justice A K Goel, who authored the judgement in the bench comprising Justice U U Lalit, had already superannuated. The court's judgement bringing in provision of anticipatory bail and mandating a preliminary inquiry before arrest of a person accused of an offence under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act had caused widespread furore across the country.

The Union government, subsequently, passed an amendment to the law restoring the stringent provisions in the 1989 law.

However, a PIL was filed by Prithvi Raj Chauhan and others, challenging validity of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018.

The Centre had responded to the PIL and framed issues for adjudication.

The Union government had asked the court to determine if denial of anticipatory bail to the accused in view of large-scale acquittal in cases of atrocities against the SC/ST members would amount to taking away liberty, without a procedure established by law.

The government maintained the SC/ST members remained vulnerable and they deserve to be protected by making stringent penal provisions.

On Thursday, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for some parties, asked the court to determine as to what should the fate of cases registered in the period between the date of judgement and the subsequent amendment in the law.

Petitioner Chauhan sought setting up a high-powered committee to ensure that the law becomes a dead letter.

(Published 24 January 2019, 06:22 IST)

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