NEW DELHI: Laws in the country should be caste-neutral and uniform, the Supreme Court said Wednesday.
"Laws in the country should be uniform and cannot be for general category or SC/ST category," the top court said while reserving its verdict on the Centre's petition seeking review of its March 20, 2018 judgement which had virtually diluted provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit, after hearing the submissions of Attorney General K K Venugopal appearing for Centre, said it is reserving the verdict.
At the outset, Venugopal said the whole March verdict was "problematic" and it should be reviewed by the court.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the parties supporting the last year verdict, said that the Centre's review has become infructuous as Parliament has already passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 to neutralize the effects of the judgement.
He sought stay of the Amendment Act till the apex court gives its verdict on the review plea of Centre.
The bench said, if any wrong has been done in the judgement, then it can always be corrected in the review petition.
Senior advocate Gopal Shankarnaryanan, appearing for one of the party supporting the last year's verdict, said that the protection from immediate arrest given in the judgement was not against the spirit of Constitution.
"Every aspect was in accordance with the law," he said.
On January 30, the apex court had refused to stay amendments to the SC/ST Act that restored the no anticipatory bail provision.
Parliament on August 9 last year had passed a bill to overturn the apex court order relating to certain safeguards against arrest under the SC and ST law.
On March 20, 2018, the apex court had taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and private individuals and said there would be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law.
The top court had said that on "several occasions", innocent citizens were being termed as accused and public servants deterred from performing their duties, which was never the intention of the legislature while enacting the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The court had said that there is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act, if no prima facie case is made out or where the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide.
It had said that in view of the acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP).