New Delhi: A recent Supreme Court ruling preventing automatic arrests in cases of atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes has diluted the SC/ST Act and created great damage, the government said. The ruling was in the “teeth of the provisions of the law", the government submitted in the Supreme Court.
“This case dealing with an issue of very sensitive nature has caused a lot of commotion in the country and is also creating anger, unease and a sense of disharmony", the centre said.
It was also stressed that the judgement had diluted the provisions of the governing act, resulting in great damage to the country.
In written submissions to the review petition, the centre, through attorney general K.K. Venugopal, said the court was not filling in gaps but was amending the Act through judicial legislation and “defeating the salutary provisions" of the SC/ST Act.
Seeking a review of the judgement, the centre said it was vitiated by the fact that the court had proceeded on the basis that it can legislate, and has the power to make law when none exists.
This is “wholly fallacious" since we live under a written Constitution, of which “separation of powers between the legislatures, the executive and the judiciary is the very basic structure and is inviolable", it added.
On 3 April, the top court refused to keep in abeyance its earlier order preventing automatic arrests on complaints filed under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and asked the parties to file written submissions within two days.
The court’s March ruling triggered protests by Dalit groups across the country, with sporadic violence in a Bharat Bandh on 2 April. Attorney general Venugopal had previously urged the court to stay or clarify its ruling and claimed that it led to the dilution of the law meant to protect the marginalized.
On 20 March, a bench of justices U.U. Lalit and A.K. Goel held a public servant could be arrested only after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the senior superintendent of police, if considered necessary, for reasons recorded.
To avoid false implication, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the deputy superintendent of police to verify if the allegations make out a case under the SC/ST Act.
Clarifying the main objective behind the order, justice Goel had clarified that the court was not trying to stand in the way of the rights of members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and was concentrating on protecting false implication of an innocent person.
The centre, in its petition said the order “adversely affects a substantial portion of the population of India being SC/ST members". It was also “contrary to the legislative policy of Parliament" as reflected in the SC/ST Act, it said.
It was also the centre’s stand that any dilution of the provisions of the amended SC/ST Act would result in depriving the community of their Constitutional rights.
On Thursday, the Press Trust of India reported that leaders of various Dalit organizations decided to observe 14 April —the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar—as “Protect Constitution Day".