NEW DELHI: The Central government on Monday moved the Supreme Court to seek recall of its judgment that there would be no automatic arrest of an accused following a complaint under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
As the Supreme Court on March 20 held that police will hold an inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the complaint filed under the Act before acting on it, the government pleaded that this would result in "impermissible delay in registration of cases", adversely affecting the working of the law.
Seeking the judgment's recall, the government said it "entails wide ramifications and implications resulting in dilution of the stringent provisions" of the 1989 law.
The petition referred to the "increase" in the "disturbing trend" of "certain atrocities" where Scheduled Castes were made to eat "inedible substances like human excreta", attacks on them and mass killings and rape of women belonging to SC and ST.
Despite the deterrent provision of the law, the high incidence of offences against SC/ST show that it "was not being adequately felt by the accused", it said, adding it was against this backdrop, that it became necessary to make its provisions more effective as it referred to 2016 amendment to the prevention of atrocities law.
Describing Section 18 which denies the grant of anticipatory bail to the accused as "backbone" of the Act as it "enforces an inherent deterrence and instils sense of protection amongst the members of SC/ST", the government's petition said: "Any dilution thereof would shake the very objective of mechanism to prevent offences of atrocities."
The March 20 order would not normally merit denial of anticipatory bail but "by its uniform application would cause miscarriage of justice even in deserving cases", it said.
The petition cited the objects and reasons of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Bill, 1989, which says that "despite various measures to improve the socio-economic of the SC/ST they remain vulnerable", being "denied a number of civil rights", "subjected to various offences, indignities, humiliations and harassments", and "in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their life and property".
"Serious crimes are committed against them for historical, social and economic reasons," it said, noting that the offences against SC/ST were "disturbingly continuing", and citing several reasons for the low rate of conviction under the Act.
Describing the directions issued by the court by its judgement as being "legislative in nature", the government contended that the Act was a "complete code in itself" and deserves "strict interpretation in order to give effect to its state objectives of protecting SC and ST from caste based subjugation and discrimination".
The court by its March 20 judgement also said that "in absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected" without the permission of appointing authority in case of public servant or that of Senior Superintendent of Police in case of general public.
It said that it was proving for the safeguard "in view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest" under the Act.