Supreme Court order on March 20 that barred automatic arrests in cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has sparked tension between the apex court and the Centre. While the court has denied any stay order on the ruling, Centre said that the court is usurping the legislative powers.
The SC clarified that the atrocities were not taking place because of the order but due to the lack of quick punishment to the offenders. Addressing the bench of Justices AK Goel and U Lalit, Attorney General KK Venugopal said that the court can lay down guidelines for disposing of a case but not as a matter of law regarding the entire country.
The bench pointed out that there were several cases where judicial pronouncements were able to settle the law. Venugopal tried to convince the court to put a stay on the judgment and send the case to a large bench for review but the bench didn’t agree and fixed 16th May as the next hearing date.
Clarifying its intention, the court also said that it’s also working for the protection of these sections and there is a need to deliver immediate punishment within a month or so. However, Venugopal argued that it’s quite difficult given the size of the population of the country. Countering this, Justice Goel said that the society must learn to stop discrimination and people must stop disrespecting each other.
The court had earlier clarified that for those who are booked under both SC/ST act and any other IPC offence, the preliminary inquiry would be needed only for the offence under SC/ST Act while for any other IPC offence; an FIR can be immediately registered. The court had disallowed only the anticipatory bail under the SC/ST Act while regular bail could be granted.
Attorney General Venugopal said that the court should have left the decision to the legislature. Further, when he added that the order had agitated people so much that 8 or 9 deaths had taken place, the Supreme Court said: “We didn’t say don’t register.”
Also, on behalf of the original complainant in the case, Advocate Indira Jaising appeared in the court, seeking a recall of the order. She also said that the appellant had only filed a truncated (shortened) version of the FIR and should be tried for perjury (offence of willful lying). To this, the court said that it would take up the plea as a review petition.