The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on pleas challenging the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018. The Centre had amended the act after the Supreme Court last year diluted some of its provisions and included a new one that allowed anticipatory bail plea.
In a landmark decision that triggered nation-wide protests, the top court had removed the provision of automatic arrest on a complaint filed under the SC/ST Act. The court had held that arrest can only be made after the approval of the appointing authority. It had also added a new anticipatory bail provision. The centre, however, relenting to the pressure from the people of the community, amended the Act and ruled out any such provision.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court had recalled its March 20, 2018 verdict which had virtually diluted provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act. A bench of justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai said the struggle of SC/ST people for equality is still not over in the country. The bench said SC/ST people still face untouchability, abuse and are being socially outcast.
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.
On March 20, 2018, 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.
The top court had said that 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.