The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on a plea challenging Parliament’s amendments to reverse last year’s verdict of the top court that diluted a law protecting marginalised castes and tribes, Bar and Bench reported.

A three-judge bench said it does not want to dilute the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act anymore. On Tuesday, another three-judge bench of the court had recalled the earlier judgement from March 2018.

Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat hinted that they would uphold Parliament’s amendments. “As it is, the law before the judgement of Justice Goel has been restored by our judgement in the review,” Mishra said, adding that the judgement would be a short one.

In its verdict on March 20, 2018, a two-judge bench had diluted the provisions of the atrocities law, ruling that public servants cannot be arrested immediately after a complaint is filed against them. There was outrage against the order, and at least 11 people died and hundreds were detained in protests that followed.

The Centre then sought a review of the order. A separate batch of petitions was filed after Parliament passed an amendment bill in August 2018 to restore the law’s original provisions.

The petitions claimed Parliament had arbitrarily decided to amend the law, and restored older provisions in such a manner that an innocent person cannot seek anticipatory bail. One of the petitions claimed that the structure of the Act violates “basic principles of liberty and accountability” after the amendments.

In January, the Supreme Court refused to stay the implementation of the amendments but said it would hear the petitions challenging the amendments.

Centre’s review petition

On Tuesday, the court said the 2018 judgement was not within the parameters of Article 142 of Constitution, and added that the the two-judge bench’s directions were not called for.

“The court cannot do what cannot be done by the legislature,” said the three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, MR Shah, and BR Gavai.

Also read: Supreme Court allows Centre’s review against dilution of SC/ST Act, which led to protests, 11 deaths

The bench said the directions in the verdict could delay investigation of cases under the law. The judges said prior sanction before the arrest of a public servant under the law was contrary to legislative intent and not at all statutorily envisaged.

The court said people from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities were still struggling for equality and civil rights. Misuse of the law was not a ground to dilute its provisions, the judges added.

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