The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to grant an immediate stay on its 20 March order on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 saying that the top court had not diluted the law.
The bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice UU Lalit agreed to hear the review petition filed by the Centre’s Narendra Modi government at 2 PM on Tuesday in the wake of violent protests organised across India on Monday. At least 11 people had died during the protests, particularly in three BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will go to crucial assembly polls later this year.
Alarmed with the potential electoral consequences, the central government had agreed to file a review petition in the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court bench said, “We are not against any complainant or the Act (of 1989)…the judgment only ensures that no one is deprived of their rights and that there is no terror for the innocent…under the Act of 1989, there is no forum or provision of any pre-arrest scrutiny.” The bench also sought to clarify that its intention was merely to protect innocents adding that it had not diluted the law in any manner.
In response to Attorney General KK Venugopal, Justice Goel said, “We are not against the Act at all. We are only concerned with innocent people being put behind bars. We have only reiterated the settled law of arrest, the settled law under CrPC.”
The top court, which said that it was not against the SC/ST Act, agreed to hear the case in another 10 days.
Several Dalit groups had called for Bharat Bandh on Monday. The strike was hugely successful in several north Indian states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The transport and communications services too were severely hit in many states during the bandh as more than 100 trains were reported to have been affected either resulting in delays or cancellations.