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As Dalit protests spread rapidly, Centre seeks review of top court order on SC/ST Act

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Last week, Union minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan moved the top court in his personal capacity seeking a review of the court ruling.

New Delhi: The central government has sought a review of the Supreme Court ruling on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act even as Dalit protests against the controversial order gained momentum across India.

“When there are continuing offences against members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, it would be more meaningful to affirm trust on the law instead of making it easier for the accused to get away by imposing a preliminary inquiry before arrest,” the government said in a petition filed Monday.

Although review petitions in the apex court are generally heard in chambers of the judges, the government has sought an open court hearing of its plea. The petition is circulated without oral arguments to the same bench of judges that delivered the judgment sought to be reviewed.

On 20 March, a bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit had issued a set of guidelines to “avoid false implications of an innocent” under the SC/ST Act.

The court had said that anticipatory bail is granted even for heinous crimes like rape and murder but not for offences under the SC/ST Atrocities Act and termed it violative of fundamental right to equality of a citizen.

To this, the government argued that “non-availability of provisions for anticipatory bail is not violative of fundamental rights”, citing a 1994 constitution bench ruling of the apex court.

However, the court ruling records that the central government represented by additional solicitor general Maninder Singh had agreed that in genuine cases anticipatory bail can be granted for offences under the Act.

Anticipatory bail was made law only in 1973. In Uttar Pradesh, there is still no provision for anticipatory bail.

The government also said that it has already issued directions to constitute special courts and exclusive courts to deal with cases under SC/ST Act that can take cognisance and see to it that the trial is completed in two-three months.

Last week, Union minister and Lok Jan Shakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan moved the Supreme Court in his personal capacity seeking a reconsideration of the court ruling. Several BJP members had also urged the government to seek reconsideration of the court’s ruling.

“Alleged potential of misuse would not deserve to be considered as a valid, justifiable or permissible ground for reading down the stringent provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities Act,” the petition argues.

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