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Supreme Court laments practice of untouchability

Published : Sep 19, 2019, 2:29 am IST
Updated : Sep 19, 2019, 2:29 am IST

Reserves order on plea to review SC/ST Act verdict.

Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)
 Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday lamented that even seven decades after untouchability towards Scheduled Castes was outlawed, the pernicious practice still continues and asked does the dominant sections of society shake hand with the members of Scheduled Castes.

“Do you shake hand with them”, asked Justice Arun Mishra presiding over a three-judge bench hearing Centre’s plea seeking the recall of March 20, 2018 judgment diluting the stringent provisions of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act that mandated arrest of a person and no anticipatory bail after a complaint is filed under the law protecting SC/ST against the atrocities.

The court on Wednesday reserved its order on the Centre’s plea seeking the review of March 20, 2019, judgment by a bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (since retired) and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit.

Justice Goel is at present Chairman, National Green Tribunal.

The bench also comprising Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.R. Gavai said that the law protecting the members of Scheduled Castes against the high-handedness of the dominant sections of society was in conformity with the spirit of the Constitution, and the judgment under review was against the spirit of the Constitution.

Making it clear that a law can’t be interfered and the safeguard introduced merely because of  the allegations of its misuse, the court said, “Even a general member can be lodging a false complaint.”

“Under the Constitution protective law can be made, judgment is against the spirit of the Constitution”, said Justice Mishra

Justice Shah too said that “merely because there may an abuse, you don’t introduce the safeguards. There could be a misuse by the general public as well.”

Saying that they would be issuing some directions, Justice Mishra referred to the part of the judgment that said that in case of public servant, no arrest would be affected without the permission of the appointing authority

The court wondered the competence of the appointing authority to decide whether permission for action on a complaint under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be granted or not.

At this Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said that in a number of cases the appointing authority could be even the governor and could he be expected to make such decisions.

While ruling that there would be no mandatory arrest of accused on a complaint under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the top court by its March 20, 2018 judgment had directed “..., in absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected” without  permission of appointing authority in case of public servant or that of SSP in case of general public.

Tags: scheduled castes, supreme court