The Supreme Court 13 September 2019 referred to a larger bench the Centre’s plea for review of its March 2018 verdict which had virtually diluted provisions of arrest under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The court had on May 1, this year, reserved the judgment on the review plea while observing that laws in the country should be caste neutral and uniform. A bench of justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit said, “Place the matter before three-judge bench next week”.
- In a ruling on March 20 last year, a two-judge bench of the top Court comprising Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit said there were “instances of abuse” of the SC/ST Act by “vested interests” for political or personal reasons. It, thereafter, laid down guidelines for arrests under the Act “to avoid false implications”.
- The court then ruled that a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by a DSP to ensure allegations are not “frivolous or motivated” before a case is registered.
- It added that a public servant, if accused, can be only be arrested with the permission of the appointing authority. Others can be arrested only after permission is granted from the Senior Superintendent of Police of the district.
- The SSP will have to record in writing the reason for granting permission and hand it to the accused and the concerned court.
- The verdict had led to massive outcry and violent protests by different organisations across the country. In protests by Dalit groups, at least seven people were killed and over 100 injured in various parts of the country.
- The issue was raised in Parliament, where MPs urged the Centre to promulgate an Ordinance to restore the Act.
- The Union Cabinet, in August last year, approved an amendment to the Act to undo ‘dilution’ of the law by the Supreme Court. In wake of protests, the Centre has contended that the verdict was “problematic”.