HC Notice to Central, TN Governments
CHENNAI: The Madras High Court today ordered issue of notices to the Centre and Tamil Nadu government on a PIL sekking to declare the provisions of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the amendment by an ordinance in 2014 as ultra vires to the constitution.
The first bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M M Sundresh, ordered issue of notices to the Secretaries of Union Ministry for Law and Justice, Home, Social Justice and Empowerment, SC/ST Development Division, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and to the Tamil Nadu Home Secretary on a PIL by K Balu, President of Advocate Forum for Social Justice, Tamil Nadu.
The petitioner, while referring to allegations of high incidence of abuse of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, contended the law, which was made more stringent through an ordinance by the UPA government, is discriminatory as it treated all non-Dalits as a separate class.
The petitioner, while maintaining that a majority of cases registered under the above law ended in acquittal, said it indicated the abuse of the law.
Referring to the allegations of harassment levelled by a Judge of the Madras High Court against some other judges, the petitioner said "the need for judicial review is indispensable due to the havoc it creates in the public administration from class IV employees to High Court Judges.
"Seeking to distinguish the term untouchability as mentioned in the Constitution from ?atrocity? as defined in the present Act, the latter had gone beyond the constitutional mandate.
The petitioner contended "Article 17 of the Constitution, in fact, does not confine the issue untouchability to SC/STs alone. It addresses untouchability against all classes in general without restricting it to any particular class. It is not addressed in favour of SC/ST as a separate class".
"Article 17 intends to punish whoever commits an act of untouchability against any person" and there is no special reference to SC/STs as class", he said.
The ordinance promulgated by the UPA government, however, opens with a sentence "whoever not being member of the SC/ST," addressing untouchability not in general but restricting it to a particular community, Balu said in his petition.
"The constitution never conceived and expressed the term atrocity at par with untouchability", the Forum contended and wanted the court to declare the provisions of the Act and the amendment as "unlawful" and as an interim measure to restrain the authorities from registering any complaint under any of the provisions of the Act.