No prior approval of appointing authority, senior cops required before FIRs. (Photo Credit: File Photo)
In a major victory for the Narendra Modi government, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of SC/ST Amendment Act, 2018. The amendment had ruled out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs. Now, preliminary enquiry not a must. No prior approval of appointing authority, senior cops required before FIRs. Anticipatory bail provision not available. Courts can however quash FIRs in exceptional circumstances. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 was enacted to nullify the effects pf the top court's verdict that had diluted the provisions of the Act. The three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Sarana and Ravindra Bhat pronounced the verdict. The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the provisions for anticipatory bail are to be exercised sparingly and in "exceptional cases" where no prima facie case has been made out.
Justice Ravindra Bhat, the other member of the bench, said in a concurring verdict that every citizen needs to treat fellow citizens equally and foster the concept of fraternity. Justice Bhat said a court can quash the FIR if a prima facie case is not made out under the SC/ST Act and the liberal use of anticipatory bail will defeat the intention of Parliament. The top court's verdict came on a batch of PILs challenging the validity of the SC/ST Amendment Act of 2018, which was brought to nullify the effect of the apex court's 2018 ruling, which had diluted the provisions of the stringent Act.
Soon after the Supreme Court ruling, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said, “It is the DNA of the RSS and the BJP to try and erase reservation. They never want SC/STs to progress. They're breaking the institutional structure. I want to tell SC/ST/OBC and Dalits that we'll never let reservations come to an end no matter how much Modi Ji or Mohan Bhagwat dream of it.”
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In October last year, the bench had given a hint that it will uphold amendments made by the Centre in SC/ST Act to restore immediate arrest and ban anticipatory bail. "We are not diluting any provisions... these provisions will not be struck down. Law should be as it was... They will be left as it was prior to the judgement on review petition and amendments in the Act," it observes.
The Apex Court had also said it will also clarify that police can hold a preliminary probe before taking any action on a complaint under SC/ST Act, in case it is of prima facie view that complaints are false. The old provision would be restored stand in the light of the review judgment delivered on September 30, 2019, the Court had remarked. By September 30 verdict, the apex court's three-judge bench had recalled its March 20, 2018 order that had diluted the stringent provisions of the SC/ST Act while restoring automatic arrest in such cases. It had also recalled order on the preliminary probe by the police before the arrest.
By March 20, 2018 verdict, the two-judge bench of the apex court had held that there will be no automatic arrest on a complaint filed under the Act had also introduced anticipatory bail provision under the Act. The Centre had filed a review petition before the top court asking to review its order passed on March 20, 2018.
(With agency inputs)