SC refuses to stay amendments to SC/ST Act

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 that rule out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs.

A bench headed by Justice AK Sikri said the petitions against the amendment and review pleas against the March 20 judgment on automatic arrests and anticipatory bail, should be heard together.

Refusing to stay the amended Act passed by Parliament, the bench said: “No interim order can be passed in these matters”.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said the court should first decide the review petition, filed against the March 2018 judgment, and then fresh petitions against the amendments could be heard.

Appearing for the petitioners against the amendments, senior advocate Vikas Singh questioned the central government on bringing new law when its review petition was already pending before the top court.

The bench now posted before Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to decide whether the review petition and petitions against amendments should be heard together or not.

On March 20 last year, the apex court had passed the judgment that there will be no automatic arrest on a complaint filed under the Act. It had also introduced anticipatory bail provision under the Act.

However, the Centre had made amendments in the Act to overcome the top court’s order diluting the provision of arrest under the law.

The two-judge bench of the Supreme Court had passed a slew of directions and said a public servant could be arrested in cases lodged under the SC/ST Act only after prior approval by the competent authority.

The amendments provide that no preliminary inquiry would be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any approval.

The top court is seized of a bunch of pleas opposing amendments to the SC/ST Act. The pleas alleged that Parliament had “arbitrarily” decided to amend the law.