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AFTER THE Centre, the Kerala government has approached the Supreme Court and sought a review of the court’s March 20 judgment forbidding automatic arrest in case of offences under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Stating that the court order has had “wide ramifications”, the state’s review petition said that the judgment has “created insecurity among SC/ST people”. The state pointed out that in its 1995 decision in the State of MP vs Ram Kishna Balothia case, the apex court had ruled that the denial of anticipatory bail for offences under the Act will not violate Article 14 since offences under SC/ST Act cannot be compared to other offences. Thus, the two-judge bench which issued the March 20 order should have referred the matter to a larger bench, the petition contends.
The court judgment, which has sparked widespread protest among SC and ST communities, noted instances of abuse of the 1989 Act and laid down stringent safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail and a “preliminary enquiry” by a DSP-level officer before registering a case under the Act. It also said that accused public servants can be arrested only with permission of the appointing authority and others, and with prior permission of the Senior Superintendent of Police of the district.
The state said that Section 18 of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, which debars anticipatory bail to an accused booked under the law, is the “backbone of the Act, as it enforces an inherent deterrence and instills sense of protection among members of SCs and STs”. It said, “any dilution thereof would shake the very objective of mechanism to prevent offences of atrocities.”
The state contended that the Supreme Court order “while seeking to protect persons, whose offences would not normally merit denial of anticipatory bail as in the instant case, would, by its uniform application, cause miscarriage of justice even in deserving cases”.