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SCHEDULED CASTES AND SCHEDULED TRIBES (PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES) ACT OF 1989

Written by Talent KAS

Related Topics: Constitution & Law, Social Issues

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Supreme Court (SC) has recalled its directions in a March 20, 2018 verdict that had effectively diluted provisions of arrest under the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

What was the earlier judgment of SC?

  • On March 20, 2018, a judgment by Justice (now retired) A.K. Goel diluted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989, to grant anticipatory bail to accused persons.
  • It directed that the police should conduct a preliminary enquiry on whether complaint under the 1989 law is “frivolous or motivated” before registering a case.
  • Both conditions were not part of the original legislation.
  • The Court had reasoned that members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) use the 1989 law to lodge false complaints, leading to the arrest of innocent persons.
  • The judgment had triggered widespread protests and violence and compelled the government to amend the Act to negate the effect of the apex court ruling.

Why Supreme Court recalled its decision?

  • The Centre Government filed a review against the earlier judgment.
  • In its judgment on the government’s review petition, a three-judge Bench reasoned that human failing and not caste is the reason behind the lodging of false criminal complaints.
  • Supreme Court condemned its own earlier judgment, saying it was against “basic human dignity” to treat all SC/ST community members as “a liar or crook.”
  • The Court also observed that members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, due to backwardness, cannot even muster the courage to lodge an FIR, much less, a false one.
  • The court accepted that Dalits have suffered for long and negated the basis of last year’s judgment in which the court had commented on false cases under the Act.

About SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

  • Since crimes against SCs and STs are fundamentally hate crimes, the government enacted the Act in 1989 in furtherance of the provisions for Abolition of Untouchability (Article 17) and Equality (Articles 14, 15) in the Constitution.
  • The Act aims to prevent crimes against members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and to provide for relief and rehabilitation of victims of such offences.

[Source: The Hindu, Indian Express]

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