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The Supreme Court today (Wednesday, Jan 30) once again refused to stay amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act that restored the no anticipatory bail provision.

The apex court Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit said all matters including the Center’s review petition will be heard on February 19.

Last Thursday, too, the apex court had declined to stay the amendments to the SC/ST Act, 2018 saying that petitions against the amendment and review pleas against the March 20 judgment should be tagged together.

The petitioners in the plea have referred the amendment as “arbitrary” by the Parliament as it overturned the top court decision to defend innocent people from misuse of the rigorous provisions of the Act.

“The government brought the amendment under influence from allies and for political mileage and its fears over antagonising massive vote-bank ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” the petitioners had said in the plea.

Today, the Supreme Court Bench said the issue requires hearing in detail and it will be appropriate if all matters are heard on February 19.

Vikas Singh, appearing for one of the petitioners who had challenged the changes made to the Act, had sought an immediate stay on the amended Act.

The top court had earlier said that the new amendments to the SC/ST law passed by Parliament cannot be stayed and had sought the Centre’s response on pleas challenging its provisions.

The Parliament had on August 9 last year passed a bill to overturn the apex court order relating to certain safeguards against arrest under the SC and ST law.

On March 20, 2018, the apex court had taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and private individuals and said there would be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law. It barred arrests without a preliminary inquiry to avoid false implication of innocent people under the Act.

Dalit organisations saw the ruling as a dilution of the provisions of the SC/ST Act. Violent protests erupted across the country following the verdict, killing seven people.

Then Parliament passed the amendments to the Act on August 9, overturning the Supreme Court order.  The amendments rule out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs, notwithstanding any court order. They provide that no preliminary inquiry will be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any approval.

This incensed the upper castes and protests were held in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They also moved the Supreme Court, seeking declaration of the new amendments to the Schedule Castes and Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as ultra vires.

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