The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Centre’s review petition challenging the dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, reported Bar and Bench.
The bench said directions issued were not called for and were not within the parameters of Article 142 of Constitution. “The Court cannot do what cannot be done by the Legislature,” the three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, MR Shah, and BR Gavai said.
On May 1, the top court had reserved its judgement on the Centre’s review petition, and said laws in the country should be caste-neutral and uniform. On September 13, the court referred the Centre’s plea to a three-judge bench.
In its verdict on March 20, 2018, the Supreme Court had diluted the law’s provisions and had said public servants cannot be arrested immediately after a complaint is filed against them under the law. At least 11 people died and hundreds were detained during the protests against the Supreme Court order in April 2018. After this, the Centre moved the court to seek a review of this order, and Parliament passed an amendment bill in August to reverse the verdict. The amendments said no preliminary inquiry would be needed to file a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any approval.
The court on Tuesday said that the people of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were still struggling for equality and civil rights. “They are still discriminated against,” the court said, according to NDTV. “Untouchability has not vanished and those involved in scavenging have still not been provided modern facilities.”
It added: “Misuse of the Act is not a ground to dilute the provisions of law.”
Attorney General KK Venugopal, on behalf of the Centre, said the verdict was problematic.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, who appeared in the court for parties supporting the 2018 verdict, argued that the Centre’s review petition became infructuous after Parliament passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, to reverse the judgement. He sought a stay on the amendments till the court’s verdict on the Centre’s petition.
The petitions claimed Parliament had arbitrarily decided to amend the law and restored earlier provisions taking away an innocent person’s right to anticipatory bail. One of the petitions claimed that the structure of the Act violated the “basic principles of liberty and accountability” after the amendments.
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