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Verdict on SC/ST Act has diluted its provisions: Centre to SC

Last updated on: April 12, 2018 23:22 IST

The government also said the 'confusion' created by the apex court verdict may have to be corrected by reviewing the judgment and recalling the directions issued by it.

IMAGE: Protesters vandalise a police vehicle in Meerut during Bharat bandh called by Dalit groups on April 2 to protest against SC order allegedly 'diluting' the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Photograph: PTI Photo

The Centre on Thursday bluntly told the Supreme Court its verdict on the SC/ST Act is resulting in "great damage" to the country and causing "anger and a sense of disharmony" among the people, as it vehemently urged for a review and recall of its order.

In an apparent damage control move days after the violent nationwide protests against the verdict, the Centre also dubbed the entire judgement on an issue of "very sensitive nature" as "vitiated" and a "judicial legislation". It reminded the apex court of separation of powers between the legislatures, the executive and the judiciary.

 

The unusually strong criticism of the top court by the Centre came in its written submissions to back its review petition against the March 20 verdict which "diluted" the stringent provisions of the act that seeks to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and tribes.

The Modi government has come under intense attack from dalit groups and opposition parties including Congress for its alleged failure to defend the act in the top court. But it maintained it was not a party to the case which resulted in the apex court issuing guidelines that bar automatic arrest in cases registered under the law.

Several states were rocked by violence and clashes on April 2 following a 'Bharat Bandh' call given by several SC/ST organisations protesting the order, leaving nine people dead and hundreds injured.

"The confusion created by this judgment may have to be corrected by reviewing the judgment and recalling the directions issued by this Hon'ble Court," the Centre submitted.

Observing that the court had dealt with an issue of a "very sensitive nature", it said the verdict has caused "commotion", "anger, unease and a sense of disharmony" in the country.

The stand of the government came a week after the apex court refused to keep in abeyance its verdict, saying those agitating against its order putting in place certain safeguards on arrests under the 1989 Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, may not have read the judgement or could have been misled by "vested interests".

The written submissions filed by Attorney General K K Venugopal said "this judgment has diluted, for the reasons stated, the provisions of the Atrocities Act read with the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, resulting in great damage to the country."

"It is essential that the conclusions drawn in paragraphs 83 (iii) – (v) be reviewed and recalled, so that no basis for misunderstanding the judgment or its impact on the implementation of the Atrocities Act would continue," the government told the top court.

The concerned paragraphs refer to the process to be followed while arresting an accused, either a public servant or otherwise, the preliminary enquiry conducted by a Deputy Superintendent of Police and directs that any violation has to be followed by disciplinary action as well as contempt.

The government said the entire judgment was "vitiated" as it proceeds on the basis that it can legislate, and has the power 'to make law when none exists'.

"... the Court declares the 'role of this court travels beyond merely dispute settling, and directions can certainly be issued which are not directly in conflict with a valid stature. Power to declare law carries with it, within the limits of duty, to make law when none exists', the Centre submitted.

"Having declared so, the court proceeds to lay down its conclusions (iii), (iv) and (v), which are directly in conflict with the Atrocities Act, the validity of which has been upheld by this Court, as well as the Code," the AG said.

"The bland statement that 'power to declare law carries with it, within the limits of duty, to make law when none exists' is wholly fallacious, because we live under a written constitution, of which separation of powers between the legislatures, the executive and the judiciary is the very basic structure and is inviolable.

"What else, therefore, does it mean, if in the teeth of the Separation of Powers, the highest court in the country says that the judiciary in the country, bound to uphold the constitution and hence not to encroach upon that area reserved for Parliament and the legislatures, can lay down law contrary to a statute passed by Parliament," it said.

The Centre said the top court was not "filling in gaps" but was "amending" through judicial legislation, the Atrocities Act and the Code, thus defeating the salutary provisions of this law.

"In India, separation of powers being part of the basic structure of the Constitution, there was no room for the court declaring that it could legislate and make plenary law. Conclusions (iii) – (v) are all, in substance and effect, amendments made to the Atrocities Act, read with the Code.

"They are, pure and simple, the exercise of the power of plenary legislation. The confusion created by the judgment, it is submitted, deserves to be corrected," it said.

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