LEGALITY OF SC/ST  AMENDMENT ACT

LEGALITY OF SC/ST AMENDMENT ACT

Prathvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India, WP (C) 1015/2018

 

The Supreme Court in the abovementioned case upheld the amendments made to nullify its own judgment (Kashinath Mahajan)diluting provisions of the SC/ST Act.

In 2018, the parliament introduced section 18A in the Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 to overturn safeguards introduced in the case of Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan vs The State of Maharashtra AIR 2018 SC 1498. The safeguards from the Kashinath Mahajan judgment were intended to prevent people from abusing the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. They were a response to the allegedly rising number of false charges being filed using the Act. The safeguards aimed to ensure that people accused under the Prevention of Atrocities Act are not presumed guilty and denied due process. The judgment caused violent protests. The outcry was so severe that Parliament did not even wait for the Supreme Court to hear a review petition challenging the judgment and introduced the amendment.

Section 18A undoes all three of the following safeguards introduced by the judgment:

  1. Conduct a preliminary inquiry prior to the registration of a First Information Report (FIR)
  2. Investigation officer must receive further approval prior to effectuating an arrest
  3. Grant anticipatory bail to any accused, ‘notwithstanding any judgment or order or direction of any Court’.

The Court in the present case examined whether Section 18A violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution & the principle of judicial review.

On 10 February 2020, the Court formally upheld the constitutionality of the 2018 Amendment. “All insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offense under the Act unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao observed. Further, it was held “Offence under the Act is not established merely on the fact that the informant [the complainant] is a member of Scheduled Caste unless there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste,”. The court said the object of the Act is to punish the violators who inflict indignities, humiliations, and harassment.

 

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