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Will this new Court law help protect the minorities?

The laws are to protect the innocent and punish the culprits. But the laws contains loopholes that the culprits escape through, leaving the minorities disheartened.

In order to prevent misuse of the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the apex Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ruled out automatic registration of a First Information Report (FIR) and immediate arrest in a complaint made under the Act.

“We have already noted the working of the Act in the last three decades. It has been judicially acknowledged that there are instances of abuse of the Act by vested interests against political opponents in Panchayat, Municipal or other elections, to settle private civil disputes arising out of property, monetary disputes, employment disputes and seniority disputes,” a bench of Justices Adarsh K. Goel and Uday U. Lalit observed.

The court said there was a need to provide for safeguards in view of instances of such misuse.

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The court said the underprivileged needed to be protected against any atrocities, to give effect to the Constitutional ideals, but the Act could not be converted into a charter for exploitation of other citizens.

“The Atrocities Act has been enacted with an objective to protect people belonging to SC and ST communities. At the same time, the said Act cannot be converted into a charter for exploitation or oppression by any unscrupulous person or by police for extraneous reasons against other citizens,” the court said.

It noted that harassment of an innocent citizen, irrespective of caste or religion, is against the guarantee of the Constitution and that the SC must enforce such a guarantee.

The bench asked the police to conduct a preliminary investigation to decide whether a complaint deserved to be registered.

“We are of the view that cases under the Atrocities Act also fall in exceptional category where preliminary inquiry must be held,” the SC observed.

Also the bench added that even if a complaint is registered by the police, the accused cannot be arrested automatically.

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“There is need to safeguard innocent citizens against false implication and unnecessary arrest. The arrest is not at all mandatory in cases under SC/ST Act,” the bench ruled.

Besides, the Court stated that there cannot be any absolute bar against granting anticipatory bail in such cases.

“A person is entitled to get a pre-arrest bail if it can be prima facie shown that allegations are false, fabricated and motivated. Liberty of one citizen cannot be placed at the whim of another. Law has to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. Thus considered, exclusion has to be applied to genuine cases and not to false ones. This will help in achieving the object of the law,” it said.

In case a public servant is made accused, the court said, the permission of the appointing authority will be a must to make arrest whereas for others, written permission of the Senior Superintendent of Police or Deputy Superintendant of Police will be necessary.

“Such permissions must be granted for recorded reasons which must be served on the person to be arrested and to the concerned court. As and when a person arrested is produced before the judge, it will be examined if further detention is required,” the apex court said.


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