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Fresh plea in SC challenging amendments in SC/ST Act

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
A fresh plea has been moved in the Supreme Court today challenging the amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, claiming it to be a violation of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan directed that the matter will be listed alongwith other pending matters.
Advocate Varinder Sharma, appearing for petitioners advocates Suman Rani and Hira Lal Trivedi, said that the amendments made to the 1989, are violative of fundamental rights given under the Constitution.
The petition sought setting aside of the addition of Section 18A to the Act, which supersedes the apex court judgment delivered on March 20 by the apex court, which virtually diluted provisions of arrest under SC/ST Act.
The March 20 judgment had led to a nationwide protest by the various rights organisations.
The petition claims that by the "enactment of Section 18A, the respondent (Union of India) has clearly ignored the order of the court".
The apex court in its March 20 verdict has found that Section 18 of the old Act (denying anticipatory bail to person accused of offence under SC/ST ACt) is violative of the Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
Section 18A of the amendment Act provides, "The investigating officer shall not require approval for the arrest if necessary of any person against whom an accusation of having committed an offence under this Act has been made and no procedure other than that provided under this Act or the code."

This petition is in addition to the several petitions that have been filed in the Supreme Court as well as other high courts across the country challenging the amendment to the Act.
The plea challenges the amendment saying that the addition of Section 18A in the Act is in clear violation of the apex court judgment and that it has been brought about ignoring "deliberately and wilfully without keeping in mind the consequences and the misuse and abuse of the law".
It further said that the amendment is not only a violation of the apex court judgment but it also interferes with "the third pillar of democracy that is judiciary".
The apex court had on March 20 virtually diluted the stringent provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act mandating immediate arrest under the law.
The court had said that on "several occasions", innocent citizens were being termed as accused and public servants deterred from performing their duties, which was never the intention of the legislature while enacting the SC/ST Act.
The Centre had later moved the apex court seeking review of the verdict saying it has "diluted" the provisions of the law, resulting in "great damage" to the country.
While hearing the review petition filed by the Centre, the apex court had said that even Parliament cannot allow the arrest of a person without a fair procedure and asserted that it has protected the fundamental rights to life and liberty of innocents by ordering prior scrutiny of complaints.

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First Published: Aug 31 2018 | 9:40 PM IST

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