Government ready with ordinance to reaffirm SC/ST Act
The union government is ready to promulgate the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) ordinance within a week to reverse the changes ordered by the Supreme Court in March. The government would follow it up with a Constitution amendment bill in the monsoon session of Parliament which would include the legislation in the Ninth Schedule of constitution, thereby protecting it from future judicial interventions.
Under pressure from the Opposition and its own MPs, the government has moved and circulated the draft ordinance for interministerial consultations. Sources indicated that the home ministry, ministry of tribal affairs and social justice and empowerment ministry have given their nod.
The ordinance would state that the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act would prevail in its original form. The formulation being considered says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in any judgement/ decree/order of any court or any other law for the time being, the provisions of the Act shall be valid.”
The ordinance on SC/ST Act will be promulgated after the Karnataka assembly elections on May 12. Sources said the Ordinance would be promulgated within “5-7 days”.
The Supreme Court had on March 20 banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. Before arresting a public servant under the Act, a preliminary probe by an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent is a must, the court had said.
A bench of justices Adarsh Goel and UU Lalit had also removed the restrictions on granting anticipatory bail and imposed a condition that a public servant could be prosecuted only after obtaining permission from the higher authorities. After the Ordinance, the government would move a Constitution amendment which would include the Act under the Ninth Schedule. This inclusion would protect the Act from future judicial interventions.
The amendment being considered says that the Act would have the protection under Article 31B of the Constitution. Article 31B stipulates that none of the Acts specified in the Ninth Schedule “shall be deemed to be void… on the grounds that such Act… is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by… and notwithstanding any judgement, decree or order of any court or tribunal to the contrary…”