Supreme Court digs heels in on SC/ST Act, demands written submissions from all parties

The apex court said that all parties have to submit a written submission in two days, and posted the matter for hearing after 10 days.
Supreme Court digs heels in on SC/ST Act, demands written submissions from all parties
Supreme Court digs heels in on SC/ST Act, demands written submissions from all parties
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday, hearing the recall of its guidelines on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, asked all parties to submit a written submission within two days, and posted for the matter for hearing after ten days.

The court was hearing the Centre’s plea for the recall of its new guidelines preventing the ‘misuse’ of the SC/ST Act. According to CNN News18, the court said there should be no politics in the case.

The court also refused to keep in abeyance the order it passed on March 20, where it ruled that the arrest of an accused under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act was not mandatory and recourse to coercive action would be only after a preliminary inquiry and sanction by the competent authority.

The Bench comprised Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit. The hearing took place in an open court.

'Those agitating on streets may not have even read our judgment. We are only concerned about innocents being put behinds bars, we are not against the Act at all but innocents can't be punished on unilateral version,” the SC reportedly observed.

This hearing came after anger exploded across the streets of India on Monday, against the guidelines, which were slammed as being against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Activists said the guidelines would now protect the accused, as against the victim.

Activists had called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on April 2, as a mark of protest against the new guidelines. However, the agitations turned violent in several parts of northern India, leaving 7 people dead and scores of others injured.

Several vehicles and police posts were torched, and protesters stopped rail services and public transport in many parts of India. The Union Home Ministry deployed 800 anti-riot police personnel to Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, and instructed all states to take preventive measures and maintain public order.

A Bench headed by Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit, examining if there can be procedural safeguards to prevent the ‘abuse’ of the Act, stated that a government official cannot be prosecuted under the Act on a mere allegation. A public servant can be held only if an appointing authority approves of it, while a private authority can be prosecuted under the direction of a Senior Superintendent of Police.

The 1989 Act penalises casteist insults and any discrimination, and denies anticipatory bail to the accused – but this may all be affected in the wake of the Apex Court’s order. The court maintained that there is no bar against granting anticipatory bail if no prima facie case is made out or if, on judicial scrutiny, the complaint prima facie is found to be malafide.

With IANS inputs

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