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The Supreme Court on Tuesday recalled several provisions of its order issued last year which had diluted the provisions of SC/ST Act. Allowing a review petition filed by the central government, the apex court recalled its order which had prevented automatic arrests in cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act).

A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, MR Shah and BR Gavai gave the judgment, saying that the directions issued by the Division Bench were not called for, and were not within the parameters of Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

The apex court further said the Constitution provides for protection of SC/ST people under Article 15 but they still face social abuse and discrimination. Dealing with the misuse of provisions of SC/ST Act and lodging of false cases, the bench said it is not due to the caste system but due to human failure.

The top court had on September 18 criticized the verdict delivered by its two-judge bench on March 20 last year and had observed whether a judgment could be passed against the spirit of the Constitution.

Indicating that it would pass certain directions to “bring in equality” as per provisions of the law, the top court had said people belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are subjected to “discrimination” and “untouchability” even after over 70 years of Independence.

The top court had told Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for Centre that the 2018 judgment was not in consonance with the Constitution.

The apex court’s March 20, 2018, verdict had led to a massive outcry and protests by different SC/ST organisations across India after which Parliament passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, to neutralise the effects of the judgment.

In the verdict, 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. It had said 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.

—India Legal Bureau

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