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SC refers Centre’s plea seeking review of 2018 SC/ST Act verdict to larger bench

The Centre contended that the March 2018 verdict was “problematic” and it should be reviewed by the court.

The Supreme Court Friday referred to a three-judge bench the Centre’s plea, which was filed nearly 18 months ago, seeking review of its judgement which had virtually diluted the provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act. “Considering the importance of the matter, we feel that these matters should be heard by a three-judge bench. List these matters before a three-judge bench in the next week,” said a bench of justices Arun Mishra and U U Lalit.

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 neutralize the effects of the judgement.

Nearly two weeks after the verdict, the Centre had on April 3 last year filed a plea seeking review of the judgement and after nearly 18 months, the petition has been referred to the larger bench. The top court had on May 1 reserved the judgement on the Centre’s review plea while observing that laws in the country should be caste neutral and uniform.

The Centre contended that the March 2018 verdict was “problematic” and it should be reviewed by the court. Some of the parties supporting the verdict had said that the Centre’s review has become infructuous as Parliament has already passed the Amendment Act. They have sought a stay on it till the apex court gives the verdict on the review plea of Centre.

The top court had said that if any wrong has been done in the judgement, then it can always be corrected in the review petition. On January 30, the apex court had refused to stay amendments to the SC/ST Act that restored the no anticipatory bail provision.

Parliament on August 9 last year had passed a bill to overturn the apex court order relating to certain safeguards against arrest under the SC and ST law. 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.

The apex court had said that there is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act, if no prima facie case is made out or where the complaint is found to be prima facie malafide. It had said that in view of the acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP).

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Source: Financial Express