10 Feb 2020
SC upholds SC/ST Amendment Act; reintroduces bar on anticipatory bail
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of the 2018 amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act).
The 2018 SC/ST Amendment Act was enacted to nullify an earlier 2018 judgment of the apex court.
The court's 2018 ruling notably diluted the provisions enlisted in the SC/ST Act.
Here are more details.
Three-judge bench reintroduced bar on anticipatory bail
A three-judge Supreme Court bench ruled that a preliminary inquiry is not required to file an FIR under the Act and the approval of senior police officials is not needed for the same.
Reintroducing the bar on anticipatory bail against those accused, the bench said pre-arrest bail should only be granted in extraordinary situations where no prima facie case is made out.
'Pre-arrest bail should be granted only when denial means injustice'
The apex court bench was headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprised Justices Vineet Saran, and Ravindra Bhat.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the SC/ST Amendment Act.
In a separate order, Justice Bhat concurred with Justice Mishra and added that anticipatory bail should only be granted when denial would mean miscarriage of justice, India Today reported.
In 2018 ruling, apex court diluted provisions under SC/ST Act
In March 2018, the apex court ruled that there would be no absolute bar on an accused under the Act from seeking anticipatory bail.
It said that public servants accused under the Act can only be arrested after the appointing authority's approval and non-public servants after the approval of the Senior Superintendent of Police.
It also mandated a preliminary inquiry before registering an FIR.
The verdict had sparked widespread protests which left 11 dead
The court ruling sparked massive protests across India which led to the deaths of at least 11 people. Dalit organizations had also called a Bharat Bandh (general strike). In Rajasthan, the houses of a sitting and a former MLA, both Dalits, were also set ablaze.
Centre then introduced amendment to SC/ST Act; filed review petition
Later that year, the Centre amended the SC/ST Act to nullify the court's March 2018 judgment.
The Centre had also filed a review petition against the apex court's ruling. Meanwhile, petitions challenging the amendment were also filed.
In October 2019, the court allowed the review petitions and reserved its order.
However, it had said, "We won't dilute provisions to the Act."