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SC/ST Act: Protestors were misled, our order does not dilute a single provision of the law says SC

By Vicky Nanjappa
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    The Supreme Court has refused to stay its order in the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The court while directing all parties to submit written arguments within two days has adjourned hearing on the review petition filed by the Centre by ten days.

    During the course of the hearing the Centre urged the Bench to keep its March 20 order in abeyance. The plea was however rejected.

    SC/ST Act: Centre’s review to be heard in open court today

    Earlier the court observed that it was not against the Act. We are not against the Act, we just do not want innocent people to be punished, the Supreme Court said.

    The court observed that those who protested on April 2 may have not read the order and they may have been misled. We have not diluted a single provision of the Act. We have only protected innocents from getting arrested on frivolous complaints, the court also said.

    The court said that in the judgment it had also said that compensation can be paid to alleged victims of atrocities even prior to the registration of the FIR. Further the court also said that the Act does not mandate immediate arrest on filing of complaint. The Act is a substantiative law and we have just asked that implementation of the same would require adherence to procedural law as given in the criminal procedural code.

    The Centre told the Supreme Court that there is an emergency like situation in the country. We are here to seek a solution to the same as a difficult position has arisen in the country, the Centre also submitted before the Bench.

    The review was sought against the order of the Supreme Court which amended provisions of the Act with regard to mandatory arrests.

    In its review plea, the Centre sought restoration of the SC/ST Act provisions that made certain offenc es cognisable and non-bailable. The Centre also sought for an open hearing on the matter.

    The Centre argued that the dilution of the law would shake the purpose of the Act and it would give liberty to the accused to "terrorise the victims".

    The government, in its review petition, told the Supreme Court that its 20 March verdict will violate Article 21 of the Constitution for the SC/ST communities and sought restoration of the provisions of the SC/ST Act.

    The Court had on 20 March said that on "several occasions", innocent citizens were being named 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 court had said that unless the exclusion of anticipatory bail is limited to "genuine cases and inapplicable to cases where there is no prima facie case was made out, there will be no protection available to innocent citizens".

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