No automatic arrest under SC/ST Act, says SC, allows bail
Amit Anand Choudhary| TNN | Updated: Mar 21, 2018, 08:17 IST
File photo of the Supreme Court of India
- The SC/ST Atrocities Act should not perpetuate casteism, said the SC
- The court said 15-16% of the total number of complaints filed in 2015 under the Act were false
- Any harassment of an innocent citizen, irrespective of caste or religion, is against the guarantee of the Constitution, the bench said
NEW DELHI: Holding that caste poses a serious threat to unity and integrity of the country, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said steps should be taken to achieve the constitutional goal of a ‘caste-less’ society and prevent misuse of law resulting in spreading hatred on caste lines.
A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit said that law should not result in caste hatred and expressed its anxiety over misuse of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, resulting in filing false cases and bolstering the eternal caste conflict in the country.
“The under privileged need to be protected against any atrocities to give effect to the Constitutional ideals. The Atrocities Act has been enacted with this objective. At the same time, the said Act cannot be converted into a charter for exploitation or oppression by any unscrupulous person or by police for extraneous reasons against other citizens as has been found on several occasions. Any harassment of an innocent citizen, irrespective of caste or religion, is against the guarantee of the Constitution. This Court must enforce such a guarantee. Law should not result in caste hatred,” the bench said.
“In the light of submissions made, it is necessary to express concern that working of the Atrocities Act should not result in perpetuating casteism which can have an adverse impact on integration of the society and the constitutional values. Such concern has also been expressed by this Court on several occasions. Secularism is a basic feature of the Constitution. Irrespective of caste or religion, the constitution guarantees equality in its preamble as well as other provisions including Articles 14-16. The Constitution envisages a cohesive, unified and casteless society,” the bench said.
Referring to the data submitted by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which highlight misuse of the law, the court said 15-16% of the total number of complaints filed in 2015 under the Act was false and out of the cases disposed of by the courts 75% cases have resulted in acquittal/withdrawal in 2015.
Admitting misuse of the law, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh, appearing for Center, said that the issue was also examined by the Parliament for making provision of punishment should for filing false complaint but the government took a stand that awarding punishment to members of SCs and STs for false implication would be against the spirit of the Act. He also contended that the court should refrain from issuing guidelines to prevent misuse of the law and it was for legislative to take a call.
The court, however, turned down Center’s submission and said “We are thus of the view that interpretation of the Atrocities Act should promote constitutional values of fraternity and integration of the society. This may require check on false implications of innocent citizens on caste lines”.
“We have already noted the working of the Act in the last three decades. It has been judicially acknowledged that there are instances of abuse of the Act by vested interests against political opponents in Panchayat, Municipal or other elections, to settle private civil disputes arising out of property, monetary disputes, employment disputes and seniority disputes,” it said.
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