Centre tells Supreme Court its verdict has diluted SC/ST Act, caused disharmony


New Delhi, April 12: The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that its recent judgement on the SC/ST Act has “diluted” the provisions of the law, resulting in “great damage” to the country, and steps may be taken to correct it.
It said the top court verdict, which had dealt with an issue of a “very sensitive nature”, has caused “commotion”, “anger, unease and a sense of disharmony” in the country.
The government also said the “confusion” created by the apex court verdict may have to be corrected by reviewing the judgement and recalling the directions issued by it.
In his written submission, Attorney General KK Venugopal said that through the judgement, the top court has not filled the gaps in the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, but rather amended it through judicial legislation.
He also stressed that there was separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary which was “inviolable”.
“It is submitted that this judgement has diluted, for the reasons stated, the provisions of the Atrocities Act read with the Code, resulting in great damage to the country,” the Attorney General said in his written submissions.
“This case, dealing with the issue of very sensitive nature, has caused a lot of commotion in the country and is also creating anger, unease and a sense of disharmony,” it said.
“Bland statement that ‘power to declare law carries with it, within the limits of duty, to make law when none exists’ is wholly fallacious because we live under a written Constitution of which separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary is the very basic structure and is inviolable,” it said.
The Centre’s submission came in the backdrop of several states being rocked by violence and clashes on April 2 following a ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by several SC/ST organisations protesting the top court’s March 20 order, which claimed at least nine lives and injured hundreds.
The apex court had on April 3 refused to keep in abeyance this verdict, saying those agitating against its order putting in place certain safeguards on arrests under the Act may not have read the judgement or could have been misled by “vested interests”.
The top court had also asserted that “no provisions of SC/ST Act have been diluted” while clarifying that additional safeguards had been put in place “to protect the fundamental rights” of innocents.
It had refused to accept the submission of Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for Centre, and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Maharashtra, to keep the verdict in abeyance till it decided the Centre’s review petition.
The court had said that the provisions of anticipatory bail have been introduced by its verdict “as, unlike other laws, no forum was available for the innocents to seek remedy under the Act”.
The bench had also clarified that there was no dilution of any provision of the SC/ST Act or Rules and a compensation can be paid to the alleged victims of atrocities even prior to the registration of FIR under the law.
It had said the only offences mentioned in the SC/ST Act were the subject matter of the judgement and other cognisable offences under IPC would not require inquiry before registration of FIR.
The bench had asked the AG whether he can function if any unverified allegation is levelled against him under the Act or could any public servant work if such averments made against him or her.
“No, they can’t work. Rights of innocents cannot be taken away without giving any remedy to them,” it said, adding “people who are agitating may have not read the order. They might not know what is in the order or they may have been misled with people having vested interest”.
It had said the mandate of the court was to protect the constitutional and fundamental rights of citizens which have “to be kept at the highest pedestal”.
The AG had said it was Parliament which makes the law and it believes that the SC/ST community needed to be protected from the atrocities.
The bench had then said it has never directed to acquit or discharge the accused in genuine cases under the Act but have reiterated what is the settled law under the CrPC.
Senior advocate Amrendra Sharan, who was appointed amicus curiae in the matter, had opposed the Centre’s review petition and said the verdict had even dealt with the data and report of the parliamentary committee submitted by the government.
He said the Centre’s review petition cannot be an appeal against the March 20 verdict unless there is a patent error and that no provision of the Act has been diluted.
The bench said through the verdict, some filters have been put in place which are not against the basic tenet of law.(PTI)