About the act
Article 17 of the Constitution of India abolished ‘untouchability’ and prohibited its practice in any form and made enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability as an offence punishable under the law.
An act of parliament namely the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes (prevention of atrocities) act, 1989 was enacted to give effect to the provisions of Article 17 of the Constitution of India and for preventing the commission of offences of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The act does not allow the court to grant anticipatory bail to the accused person (section 18). The act provides that police must file the First Information Report (FIR) and arrest the accused on receiving a complaint.
What changes did the Supreme Court bring to the act on March 20, 2018, in the case of Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. the state of Maharashtra & anr. ?
- No arrests can be made without prior permission. In the case of arrest of a public servant approval of appointing authority is required and in the case of non-public servant approval by the senior superintendent of police will be required if considered necessary, for reasons recorded.
- The Supreme Court allowed a court to grant anticipatory bail if it, prima facie, finds the complaint to be an abuse of law.
- The deputy superintendent of police may conduct a preliminary inquiry to verify the allegations made out of a case under the act.
The Supreme Court in 2018 verdict said that we could not allow the arrest of the persons without a fair procedure. It, therefore, protected the fundamental rights of life and liberty of innocents by ordering preliminary inquiry of complaints.
But soon after this verdict, several states were staggered by widespread violence and clashes. Also, a national strike was announced following a ‘BHARAT BANDH’ call given by representatives of SC/ST caste groups. Thousands took to streets and protested across India against this order and subsequently 15-20 people died, and hundreds were injured.
The Schedule Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities), Amendment Bill on August 9, 2018.
After that on August 9, 2018, the Parliament of India bypassed the judiciary and passed The Schedule Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities), Amendment Bill, 2018.
The Bill inserted two new sections:
The following section is inserted under section 18 of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, namely:
"18A.1.For this act, (a) preliminary inquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person; or
(b) The investigating officer shall not require approval for the arrest, if necessary, of any person, against whom an accusation of having committed an offence under this act has been made, and no procedure other than that provided under this Act or the Code (CrPC) shall apply.
- The provisions of section 438 of the CrPC shall not apply to a case under this act, notwithstanding any judgment or order or direction of any Court."
The Bill restores the original provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Also, he overturns the Supreme Court judgment of March 20, 2018, which weaken some provisions of the law protecting the DALITS and TRIBALS from atrocities.
SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS THE CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF SC-ST AMENDMENT ACT, 2018
On February 10, 2020, the Supreme Court of India upholds the constitutional validity of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 in the Case Title – Prithvi Raj Chauhan v. union of India.
The petition, in this case, was filed to challenge the Constitutional validity of section 18-A of the SC-ST Amendment Act, 2018 inserted by the central government on passing the Amendment bill on August 9, 2018, on the ground that the section
18-A of the act nullifies the earlier decision of the Supreme Court in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. the state of Maharastra & anr. On March 20, 2018, the aim of which was to prevent misuse of the act.
But the court in Prithivi Raj Chauhan vs Union of India case observed that the decision of the Kashinath Mahajan case in one or the other way favoured the offender of the act. It will fail to fulfil the objective of the act that is to prevent abuse and injustice against Dalits and Adivasis.
The Supreme Court, in this case, observes as follows:
- Preliminary inquiry before registration of FIR is permissible only in conditions laid down in Lalita Kumari v. Government of U.P.
- No anticipatory bail to be given for offences under SC/ST Amendment Act. But also
Observed that anticipatory bail can only be given in exceptional cases and not in every case.
- The court can quash FIRs in exceptional cases.
- Equal treatment of all citizens and fostering the idea of fraternity because the concept of fraternity is as important as the personal liberty of a person.
“The taste of anything can be changed. But poison cannot be changed into nectar"
Caste has been a persistent barrier to our country's growth. They remain insecure, despite numerous steps to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. They are subject to various offences, indignities, humiliations, and harassment. Peculiar legislation to look over and put off crimes against them committed by the non-scheduled Castes and non-scheduled tribes have, therefore, become necessary. As a citizen of a country, it’s our responsibility that discrimination in the name of caste should be stopped.