Apropos the letter captioned “SC/ST Act controversy” (April 4). The Supreme Court (SC) had good reasons to intervene in the implementation of the SC/ST anti-atrocity Act, 1989. The meaning of “atrocity” in the Act is very wide — it even covers saying the caste of the person in public as an offence if it is seen as causing humiliation, a subjective assessment. And yet, it provides for immediate arrest on filing first information report (FIR) and denies bail to the accused. According to the data shared by the government in Lok Sabha, 40,774 cases were registered under this Act in 2016 out of which only 78.3 per cent were chargesheeted (implying 21.7 per cent, about 8,000, cases were closed). And the conviction rate too was just 25.8 per cent. All this implies that a good number of the accused were innocent and still they were in jails.
All that the Court has done is to introduce one more step ahead of FIR by way of preliminary enquiry to protect the rights of this group under Article 21 of the Constitution. And the Court has ordered that the same should be completed within a week — in some cases even within an hour, it has said. How does this “delay” of a week go against the principles of social justice even as it renders natural justice to the accused?
It is incorrect to suggest that Court has made the process of justice delivery ‘indistinguishable’. And it is mischievous and misconceived to hint that the judges involved were not ‘caste-neutral’ but the inclusion of an SC/ST judge could have. All this just because it does not meet the approval of the interested party.
Lastly, the apex court did well to assert that it will not be swayed by agitations except the merits of the case. The Indian executive has already become a laughing stock by succumbing to public pressures (including this case) but if the judiciary also joins the herd, anarchy and pressure groups will run the country.
Y G Chouksey, Pune
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