The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018. The bill was introduced in the House by Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot on Friday.
The Bill seeks to amend the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday agreed to introduce the bill in Parliament after ruling coalition partner Lok Janshakti Party and several Dalit organisations set an ultimatum demanding that the original provisions of the law be restored after the Supreme Court bench diluted it in March.
On March 20, the Supreme Court passed an order saying that a public servant cannot be arrested immediately after a complaint is filed against him under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The court said a public servant can be arrested only after the authority that appointed him approves it.
The top court also said an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent must conduct a preliminary inquiry before a public servant is taken into custody. The order had sparked outrage across the country, and 11 people died and hundreds were detained during the protests on April 2.
The Bill states that the investigating officer will not require the approval of any authority for the arrest of an accused, according to PRS Legislative. It provides that a preliminary inquiry will not be required for the registration of a First Information Report against a person accused under the Act.
According to the Act, people accused of committing an offence under the Act cannot apply for anticipatory bail. The Bill clarifies that this provision will apply despite any judgments or orders of a court.
During the debate on the bill, Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said a review petition was filed in the Supreme Court and it is under consideration. He said the government decided to introduce an amendment Bill since there was no certainty when the Supreme Court will decide on the matter, according to All India Radio News.
On July 27, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party said it will join the protests called by Dalit organisations against the government on August 9 if the Centre did not comply with the demands. His son, MP Chirag Paswan, also warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the upcoming protests could get “fiercer and sharper” than the agitation in April, which sparked outrage across the country and left 11 people dead.
The Lok Janshakti Party has demanded a restoration of the bill’s provisions for over four months now and has also opposed the Centre’s appointment of Justice AK Goel as chairperson of the National Green Tribunal. Goel was on the Supreme Court bench whose ruling in March diluted the law.