Centre seeks review of SC/ST verdict, SC decline urgent hearing on similar plea
New Delhi, Apr 2 : The Centre today moved the Supreme Court seeking review of its recent verdict by which safeguards were put on the provisions of immediate arrest under the stringent SC/ST Act.
The apex court, however, declined urgent hearing on a writ petition filed by All India Federation of SC/ST Organisations claiming that the entire nation has witnessed large-scale violence during today’s ‘Bharat Bandh’. The court said the plea would be listed and heard in due course.
The union government, in its review petition, said the March 20 verdict has “wide ramification and implication resulting in dilution of the stringent provisions of law enacted under the 1989 enactment. It adversely affects a substantial portion of the population of India being the members of SC/ST. It is also contrary to the legislative policy of Parliament as reflected in the Prevention Of Atrocities Act 1989”.
Seeking open court hearing of the review petition, it said that “oral arguments are essential in the present matter in order to assist the court. Further, it would be in the interest of justice that oral arguments be entertained by this court”.
Justifying the petition, the Centre said that despite various measures to improve the socio-economic conditions of the SCs and STs, they still remained vulnerable.
“They are denied a number of civil rights. They are subjected to various offences, indignities, humiliations and harassments. They have, in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their life and properties, serious crimes are committed against them for various historical, social and economic reasons,” it said.
The Centre said that section 18 of the Act is the backbone as it enforces an inherent deterrence and instills sense of protection amongst members of SCs and STs and any “dilution thereof would shake the very objective of mechanism to prevent offences of atrocities”.
The review petition said “it has escaped the consideration of this court that contrary to the assertion of any misuse of the 1989 Act, the facts and data have demonstrated a weak implementation of the said Act, thereby endorsing the requirement for a strict interpretation of the deterrent provisions contained therein”.
Assailing the apex court’s recent directions on grant of anticipatory bail, the Centre said such a relief would expose the complainant victims to threats by accused and it may also impede the probe and subsequent prosecution.
It has also attributed the lower rate of conviction and high rate of acquittal under the Act to various factors like, delay in lodging of FIR, witnesses and complainant becoming hostile, absence of proper scrutiny of cases, lack of proper presentation of the case by the prosecution and appreciation of evidence by the Court.
The petition further said if the rights of accused needed to be protected under Article 21, then simultaneous protection needed to be given to the SC/ST community under Article 21 of the Constitution. Any interpretation of the Act which results in the dilution of its provisions would result in depriving the members of the SC/ST community of their right under Article 21, it added.
On other hand, the plea filed by All India Federation of SC/ST Organisations, a conglomerate of nearly 150 employees’ groups, said that after the March 20 verdict, large-scale nationwide violence has taken place in which several people have lost their lives. The Federation also sought urgent hearing of the writ petition by tomorrow.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, however, said the petition would be heard in due course and there was no urgency to hear it.
Advocate Manoj Gorkela, appearing for the employees federation, mentioned the matter before the bench saying the apex court verdict of March 20 was “unfair” and “unjust” and “it should be stayed”. He also prayed that the writ petition challenging the verdict should be heard by a larger bench of five judges to decide the issue.
The bench said it will see when the matter is taken up for hearing in the due course of time.
The apex court had on March 20 said that “in view of the acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded.”
It had said that unless the exclusion of anticipatory bail is limited to “genuine cases and inapplicable to cases where there is no prima facie case was made out, there will be no protection available to innocent citizens”.
The top court had also directed that the reasons recorded by competent authority and the SSP must be scrutinised by the magistrate for permitting further detention of an accused.
To avoid false implication of an innocent, the top court directed that a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the DSP rank officer to find out whether the allegations make out a case under the Atrocities Act and whether the allegations are not frivolous or motivated.