NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 that restored the provision denying anticipatory bail to a person booked under the law.
Parliament had, by an amendment to the SC/ST Act, introduced Section 18A in 2018 whereby a preliminary inquiry is no longer a must when a complaint under this law is made. Also, no prior approval of appointing authority or a senior police officer is required before registration of an FIR.
The Supreme Court had in a judgment on March 20, 2018, mandated preliminary inquiry and clearing of the appointing authority before arrest of a person under the stringent SC/ST Act. The ruling had sparked protests by Dalits across the country.
Delivering the verdict on Monday, a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhatt directed that provisions related to anticipatory bail be exercised sparingly and in exceptional cases where no prima facie case is made out.
Justice Bhat penned down a separate order concurring with Justice Mishra and added a caveat that pre-arrest bail should be granted only in extraordinary situations where a denial of bail would mean miscarriage of justice.
“It is important to reiterate and emphasize that unless provisions of the Act are enforced in their true letter and spirit, with utmost earnestness and dispatch, the dream and ideal of a casteless society will remain only a dream, a mirage.
The marginalisation of SC and ST communities is an enduring exclusion and is based almost solely on caste identities,” he said.In its September 30 verdict, the three-judge bench recalled the March 2018 order that had diluted the stringent provisions of the SC/ST Act and restored automatic arrest under this law.
I consider such stringent terms, otherwise contrary to the philosophy of bail, absolutely essential, because a liberal use of the power to grant pre-arrest bail would defeat the intention of Parliament Justice S Ravindra Bhat
Protests forced a review
Violent protests took place across India claiming several lives after SC’s March 2018 verdict. Parliament on August 9 last year passed the Bill to overturn the SC judgment.