Supreme Court refuses to stay amendments to SC/ST Act

A view of the Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi.

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018, which nullified the controversial March 20 apex court judgment diluting the stringent provisions of the Dalit protection law. The government had brought in the amendments, saying the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes people continue to face the same social stigma, poverty and humiliation that they have been subjected to for centuries. The March 20 judgment allowed anticipatory bail to those booked for committing atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes people. The original 1989 Act barred anticipatory bail.

The verdict saw a huge backlash across the country. Several died in protests and crores worth of property were destroyed. The government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court and subsequently amended the 1989 Act back to its original form.  A Bench, led by Justice A.K. Sikri, declined the plea to stay the operation of the amendments and transferred the plea to be tagged along with the review.

Petitions challenge amendments

In August, several petitions were filed challenging the amendments. The lead petitioner, advocate Prithvi Raj Chauhan, even called the amendments a “blunder” and a violation of the fundamental right to equality and personal liberty. The Supreme Court, however, refused to stay the implementation of the amendments. The government had responded that there had been no decrease in the atrocities committed on SC/ST people despite the laws meant to protect their civil rights.  It said the sad state of affairs was despite the existence of 195 special courts across 14 States to exclusively try Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) cases.

As per National Crime Records Bureau statistics, there is no decrease in the crimes against SC/ST people. The number of cases registered under the PoA in 2014 was 47,124, 44839 in 2015 and 47,338 in 2016. In 2014, 28.8% of the cases were convicted. The acquittal was 71.2% and pendency of cases 85.3%. The next year saw 25.8% convictions, 74.2% acquittal and 87.3% pendency. In 2016, the convictions was 24.9%, acquittal 75.1% and pendency 89.3%. “The Act of 1989 is the least which the country owes to this section of society who have been denied several civil rights since generations and have been subjected to indignities, humiliations and harassment,” the government had argued.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2022 12:23:01 am |