The Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India (RPI-A) has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against last month’s apex court ruling on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The petition, filed last week by RPI(A) under the name of its national vice-president and Supreme Court advocate Mithilesh Kumar Pandey, states that the petitioner is a prominent political party in India representing the interests of SC/ST communities. Of the three directions given by the Supreme Court bench of Justices U U Lalit and A K Goel concerning “misuse” of the Atrocities Act, the RPI(A) petition mainly challenges the one concerning Section 18 of the Act.
On Section 18, the court order in the Subhash Mahajan versus The State of Maharashtra case held that “there is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out”. The RPI(A) petition points out that Section 18 of the Atrocities Act “unambiguously states that Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1974 (Anticipatory Bail) shall have no application in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act”. It mentions that in Ram Krishna Balothia vs State of Madhya Pradesh case, the High Court had in 1995 held that Section 18 of the Atrocities Act is unconstitutional and violative of Article 21 of the Constitution. However, as recently as 2017, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of High Court and upheld the constitutional validity of Section 18.
The petition states that since the validity of Section 18 has been upheld by a division bench of the Supreme Court, it cannot be “altered or diluted or effectively over-ruled” by another bench of the same strength and hence the judgment is liable to be set aside on this ground alone.
The petition also points to the fact that data gathered over the last several decades shows that Dalits and Adivasi communities in India have been denied their right to live with dignity. It says, “The state has failed to create an atmosphere where Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are not neglected or are not victimised.”
Pandey said, “The court will hear us once the pleadings of the Government of India and Maharashtra government are completed.”