Lok Sabha takes up for discussion bill to restore SC/ST Act provisions

reduced Parliament sittings - Rajya Sabha

New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) The Lok Sabha on Monday took up for discussion the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018, which seeks to overturn a Supreme Court order that struck down the provision for immediate arrest.

The amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot last week.

“The government had filed a review petition in the Supreme Court with regard to its order to strike down the original provisions of The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

“Following the court decision, many SC/ST organisations called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’, leading to unfortunate incidents. The court decision says that to arrest an accused, the approval of the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned will be required. But this is not possible because in most parts of the country there are no SSPs,” Gehlot said while speaking on the bill in the Lok Sabha.

He pointed out that in his native state Madhya Pradesh, SSPs are posted only in Gwalior, Bhopal and Indore. He also urged the members to support the bill.

Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said that it took 3-4 months for the Modi government to bring the bill in the house and also questioned why it didn’t bring an ordinance on the matter for so long.

“If the government could bring six ordinances on various other issues to favour a corporate, it also could have brought the 7th ordinance on this matter. But, unfortunately, the government could not bring an ordinance to protect the rights of millions (over 25 per cent population) of such persons in the country,” said Kharge.

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“Why didn’t the government bring a law for the SCs and STs soon to nullify the SC order and correct it?” Kharge asked.

The Act prohibits the commission of offences against members of the weaker sections and establishes special courts for trial of such offences and rehabilitation of victims.

On March 20, the Supreme Court ruled that to arrest persons accused of committing an offence under the said Act, approval of the SSP concerned will be required before an arrest is made. Further, the DSP may conduct a preliminary enquiry to find out whether a prima facie case is made out under the Act.

The bill states that the Investigating Officer will not require approval of any authority for the arrest of the accused. Further, it provides that a preliminary enquiry will not be required for the registration of a First Information Report against those accused under the Act.

The Bill says that persons accused of committing an offence under the proposed Act cannot apply for anticipatory bail. The bill seeks to clarify that this provision will apply despite any judgments or orders of a court that provide otherwise.