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SC upholds constitutional validity of SC/ST Amendment Act 2018

The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018.

Feb 10, 2020 11:48 IST
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The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 on February 10, 2020.

The judgement was delivered by a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat. The bench had earlier reserved its judgement on the petitions challenging the validity of the SC/ST Amendment Act 2018.

The apex court stated that pre-arrest bail should be granted only in extraordinary situations where a denial of bail would mean miscarriage of justice.

What is SC/ST Amendment Act 2018?

The SC/ST Amendment Act 2018 excludes the provision of anticipatory bail for a person who has been accused of atrocities against SC and STs.

Under the act, the investigating officer does not require the approval of any authority to arrest the person accused of such crimes.

Further, the act also does not mandate a preliminary enquiry before registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against the person accused under the Act.

Petitioners

The judgement was delivered on petitions, which argued that the 2018 Amendment to the SC/ST Act should be struck down, as it violates Articles 14, 19, 21 of the Indian constitution.

The petitioners contended that the amendments including the exclusion of anticipatory bail are arbitrary and unjust.

The petitioners stated that being born as an upper caste cannot be the sole ground for a presumption of guilt so as to deprive a person of his liberty without an opportunity before an independent forum.

They argued that the power of arrest should only be exercised after complying with all the safeguards listed under Sections 41 and 41A of the Cr.P.C such as scrutiny, credible information and just and reasonable procedure.

Background

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court had held in its March 20, 2018 verdict that there will be no automatic arrest on a complaint filed under the SC/ST Amendment Act 2018. The bench had also introduced anticipatory bail provision under the Act.

However, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on September 30, 2019 restored the automatic arrest in cases of atrocities against SC and STs. The Centre had filed a review petition before the Supreme Court asking it to review its March 2018 order.

Also read: Parliament passes SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018

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