Centre ready with SC/ST ordinance if Supreme Court refuses review
The government is ready with a draft ordinance to restore all provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, including restoration of automatic arrest for offences under the law, in case it fails to persuade the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling.
The Centre is making strenuous efforts through a review petition to nullify the recent SC judgment doing away with mandatory arrest and setting out approval of a superior authority before the arrest of a government official. But it has also prepared its response if the SC does not heed its arguments.
The SC order has made it mandatory for a preliminary inquiry by a deputy superintendent of police before registering an FIR under the Act to guard against misuse and in view of the large number of acquittals. The court had clarified that there was no need to wait for an inquiry in case of an IPC offence.
Official sources said the government would wait for the court’s direction on its review petition pending in SC. “Once the court takes a decision, we will accordingly decide if it is necessary to bring in an ordinance to restore the key provisions of the SC/ST Act,” a law ministry source said.
The Centre has also informally discussed with some NDA-ruled states the need for them to become part of the review petition in the SC. This would be required to avoid issuing directives to implement the SC decision till the disposal of the Centre’s plea.
The SC had, however, made it clear that it had not stayed its March 20 order providing for a preliminary inquiry, besides other specified requirements, for registration of FIR and arrest of an accused
In its written submission before the SC seeking review of its order, the government had argued that past judgments of the apex court had clearly laid down that Section 18 of the SC/ST Act was valid and anticipatory bail could not be provided in any case where the complaint set out an offence under the Act.
The review petition said “the entire judgment is vitiated by the fact that the court proceeds on the basis that it can legislate, and has the power to make law when none exists”.