The Lok Sabha on Monday unanimously passed a Bill to reverse the effects of a Supreme Court order concerning certain safeguards against arrests under the SC/ST law.
Notwithstanding any court ruling, the renewed Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018, rules out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against people from SC or ST communities.
Moreover, no preliminary enquiry will be required to register a criminal case, and an arrest under this proposed law would not be subject to any approval. An FIR will be filed based on complaints of crimes against people from Dalit and tribal communities without any questions, it entails. Replying to the debate, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said the government is in favour of reservation, “and will continue to be in favour reservation for SC/ST” people.
He said the amendment will strengthen legislative provisions to protect people from SC/ST communities. “The review petition filed by the government is still pending. Due to delay in Supreme Court, and rising anger among the Dalit community, there was a need to amend Article 18,” Gehlot said.
Accepting that 6 to 7 per cent cases under IPC and 10 to 12 per cent cases under SC/ST Act were misused, he said misuse does not call for dilution of the law. “But citing misuse of the Act, we can’t allow 88 per cent of Dalits to suffer,” Gehlot said.
Congress member Mallikarjun Kharge said the government should have brought this Bill as an ordinance much earlier and demanded that the proposed law be included in the Ninth Schedule of Constitution so that it is away from the jurisdiction of courts. He urged the government to withdraw cases against people who had taken part in the nationwide protest on April 20 against the court’s order.
Chirag Paswan of NDA ally Lok Janashakti Party said, “There is a need to appoint judges based on competition.” He also said the government should put this law in the Ninth Schedule. Union minister Anupriya Patel said representation of SC/ST and backward communities is very low in judiciary, and “till the time we address this issue, such judgments would haunt us”.