Friday, Jan 21, 2022 | Last Update : 11:15 PM IST

  India   All India  02 Oct 2019  SC recalls its 2018 ruling diluting SC/ST Act powers

SC recalls its 2018 ruling diluting SC/ST Act powers

THE ASIAN AGE. | PRAMOD KUMAR
Published : Oct 2, 2019, 1:58 am IST
Updated : Oct 2, 2019, 1:58 am IST

The 2018 judgment had triggered protests across the country, which turned violent at some places.

Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)
 Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said misuse of the law seeking to curb social discrimination by anyone is on account of human failings and frowned upon the assumption that those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes may misuse the law that is meant to protect them from social discrimination and atrocities.

“For lodging a false report, it cannot be said the caste of a person is the cause. It is due to a human failing, and not due to caste. Caste is not attributable to such an act”, said a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat in their ruling.

 

Speaking for the bench, Justice Mishra said: “There is no presumption that members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes may misuse the provisions of the law as a class and it is not resorted to by members of upper castes or members of the elite class.”

The Supreme Court said this while reversing a 2018 ruling diluting the provision for mandatory arrest and no provision for anticipatory bail for complaints under the SC/ST Act.

The court said the directions issued in the 2018 ruling undoubtedly encroached upon the domain reserved for the legislature and contrary to the concept of protective discrimination favouring downtrodden sections of society. The Supreme Court said the directions in the March 20, 2018 order in exercise of the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution were “impermissible” as they do not conform to the laid-down parameters on the exercise of powers under Article 142.

 

The Supreme Court, under Article 142, has powers it can exercise to meet the ends of justice, particularly in areas where the law is either silent or does not exist.

“We do not doubt that the directions encroach upon the field reserved for the legislature, and against the concept of protective discrimination in favour of the downtrodden classes under Article 15(4) of the Constitution, and also impermissible within the parameters laid down by this court for the exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution,” said the judgment.

The court overturned the direction in the March 20, 2018 judgment on a plea by the Centre seeking its review and recall. The 2018 judgment had triggered protests across the country, which turned violent at some places.

 

While ruling that there would be no mandatory arrest of the accused on a complaint under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the court had in March 2018 directed that “in the absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected” without the permission of the appointing authority in the case of a public servant or that of the senior superintendent of police in case of the general public.

Taking a dim view of the direction that a report by a SC/ST person could be registered only after a preliminary investigation, Justice Mishra said such a situation would mean that “a report by an upper caste has to be registered immediately, and arrest can be made forthwith, whereas in case of an offence under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, it would be a conditional one.”

 

Such a situation, the court said, would be “opposed to the protective discrimination” given to members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes envisaged under the Constitution in Articles 15, 17 and 21 and “would be tantamount to treating them as unequal”.

Addressing the issue of a bar on the anticipatory bail, the court said the consistent view taken by the court is that if a prima facie case has not been made out that would attract the provisions of the SC/ST law, the bar under Section 18 of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on the grant of anticipatory bail was not attracted.

In any case, the court said if a person apprehends he may be “arrested, harassed and implicated falsely”, he can approach the high court for quashing the FIR under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

 

The matter is rooted in a complaint by one Bhaskar Karbhari Gaidwad against then director of education Subhash Kashinath Mahajan. Mr Gaidwad was store-keeper in a college of pharmacy in Maharashtra. Mr Mahajan declined Mr Gaidwad’s application seeking to file a complaint against the principal of the college under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act after the college head had made adverse entries in Mr Gaidwad’s ACR.

Mr Gaidwad had contended that Mr Mahajan was not competent to deal with his application as it could have been dealt with by the state government alone. The Bombay high court had declined to quash the complaint against Mr Mahajan.

 

Tags: sc/st act, supreme court of india