Dalits (SC) and Tribals (ST) are the most marginalized sections of Indian society. Many atrocities have been committed against them since time immemorial. The SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act protects them against discrimination and atrocities.

 

The Supreme Court in its recent judgement has diluted the stringent provision of denial of anticipatory bail in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

 

The SC Judgement –

 

As per the Supreme Court of India, the SC/ST act has become an instrument of “blackmail” and is being used by some to exact “vengeance” and satisfy vested interests.

 

The judgement states that public servants and private employees can only be arrested after a preliminary inquiry — that in the case of a public servant the appointing authority must give permission in writing (in the case of the public in general, the SSP’s permission is needed) — and that a magistrate can extend arrest only after written permission is secured and anticipatory bail must be given unless a prima facie case of crimes is made out.

 

Issues with the judgement:

 

  • The appointing authority is hardly expected to give in writing permission to arrest his junior. If the appointing authority happens to be of the same caste or if the employee concerned enjoys a good rapport with him, he may not give permission at all.
  • Political pressure may also be brought on the appointing authority or the SSP not to give permission to arrest the accused.
  • The court has deviated from the established judicial opinion on the subject.
  • The Supreme Court had clearly said that anticipatory bail provision for the first time was introduced in 1973 and it is merely a limited statutory right and not part of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21.
  • Also, Section 22 of the SC/ST Act already protects public servants from prosecution if they acted in ‘good faith’.
  • If there is concern about the ‘presumption of innocence’ of the accused, the protection of anticipatory bail should be extended to the accused in all cases and under all statutes.
  • The judgment will have a chilling effect on the already underreported crimes against Dalits. And thus, must be reviewed
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