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SC/ST Atrocities Act: Supreme Court says arrests without inquiry are against fundamental rights

The bench adjourned the hearing to July, when the top court will reconvene following a summer break.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that no individual can be arrested without following a fair procedure of inquiry. The bench of judges AK Goel and UU Lalit was hearing a review petition the Centre has filed against the court’s March 20 judgement, prohibiting the arrest of a public servant under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, before inquiry.

“If there is a sword hanging on a person’s head that he can just be put behind bars without a fair procedure, then we are not living in a civilized society,” Justice Goel said according to Bar and Bench. He said it is against the fundamental rights of citizens to be arrested without due procedure.

Justifying the March 20 judgement, Goel told Attorney General KK Venugopal that even the Parliament does not have the right to infringe upon people’s fundamental right to life and liberty. He said that the 1989 Act allows arrest of accused individuals “without anybody’s scrutiny and based on a one-sided version”, The Hindu reported.

Goel said the court wants to hear the arguments of all parties to the case, and adjourned the hearing until July, when the Supreme Court will reconvene after the summer break. The bench did not set a precise date for the next hearing, but Goel will retire on July 6.

The March 20 judgement had led to protests by members of the Dalit community in parts of the country. The Congress expressed “serious concern” over the verdict, and accused the Centre and the Maharashtra government – parties to the case – of not presenting it properly before the top court. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the government should either review the order or amend the Act.

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