Chief Justice refuses urgent relief on SC/ST Atrocities judgment

Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra refused to hear a petition filed by a Dalit activists’ organization seeking urgent relief from the a recent judgment by another bench that imposed restrictions on the powers of the police in cases filed under the SC ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

“If you have filed a petition, it will come up in due course. We don’t see any urgency in the matter,” Chief Justice Misra said.

The petitioner had sought an urgent listing, citing the ongoing nationwide protests and what he said were the far-reaching impact of the judgment by Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit.

Separately, the government of India is also planning to file a review petition against the order by the two-judge bench. A review petition is heard by the same bench that made the original judgment.

Under a recent system put in place by Chief Justice Deepak Misra, all new public interest litigations and cases related to elections, arbitration, habeas corpus, criminal, contempt of court, appointments of constitutional functionaries, statutory appointments and commissions of enquiry will be heard by the Chief Justice’s court.

In the March 20 judgment, the two-judge bench said arrests in cases filed under the Prevention of Atrocities Act can be carried out only after an inquiry by a DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police) finds that a case is made out prima facie.

It also said there was no absolute bar on giving anticipatory bails to the offenders.

The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was passed in 1989, and rules framed in subsequent years to address continuing violence against economically and socially weaker groups within the society by dominant castes and communities.

It contained stricter provisions that other laws related to crimes against normal citizens, considering that caste-based violence against the weaker sections required special attention and care.

The bench used low conviction rates in such cases as a reason for diluting some of the strict provisions of the Act.

However, others have called it a chicken and egg situation, pointing out that low conviction rates are often the result of and a reflection of the dominance exerted by the accused persons in society.

“The observation of the Bench (of the Supreme Court in the March 20 judgment) that it has noted “abuse” of law in the nearly three decades of its operation, is a very drastic observation, not backed with evidence and facts,” pointed out PS Krishnan, former Secretary at the ministry of welfare.