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A writ petition filed by the All India Federation of SC/ST Organisations was mentioned by advocate Manoj Gorkela before a bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra for urgent hearing by a five-judge bench with regard to the controversy and the violent situation. The bench said since the Centre has also filed a petition seeking a review of the judgment, it would hear all pleas together in the coming days.
The petition was filed days after PM Narendra Modi assured a delegation of Dalit MPs that a review would be sought. The government, under attack for not moving quickly on the issue, filed its plea and underlined its commitment to the protection of Scheduled Castes and Tribes under the law.
In its review petition, the Centre said the SC bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit had erred by taking into account the high number of acquittals in cases lodged under the act to arrive at a conclusion that the arrest provision of the law was being misused through frivolous complaints.
“The facts and data demonstrate weak implementation of the act. This could not lead to dilution of the statutory deterrent punishment to allow accused to get bail and terrorise Dalit and tribal victims and witnesses to deter them from proceeding with their complaints against accused,” the Centre said in its petition drafted by advocate Nalin Kohli and settled by additional solicitor general Maninder Singh.
It said, “Since offences of atrocities affect dignity and life of members of SC and ST community, an FIR needs to be registered immediately so that investigation commences fast without any room for the accused to seek anticipatory bail and that admissible relief due to be paid to the victim/dependent on registration of FIR is given timely.” The Centre said it amended the act in 2016 to allow compensation ranging between Rs 85,000 and Rs 8.5 lakh to victims of atrocities.
It complained that the Centre was not a formal party before the SC when it decided the case and returned the controversial verdict. Though the bench had sought assistance from the attorney general, it had eventually obtained the Centre’s stand through arguments and written submissions by the ASG, who had repeatedly requested the court not to alter the stringent provisions of the act, enacted in 1989 and amended in 2016, to help accelerate social justice and equality to Dalits and tribals.
The Centre said through the limited opportunity it got to present its stand, it had drawn the bench’s attention to the SC’s December 2016 judgment in the “National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights” case as also the reports by NHRC on atrocities against SCs, the National Commission for SC/STs, and the Justice K Punnaiah Commission to highlight the necessity of retaining the stringent arrest provision under the SC/ST Act.