Polity Notes

SC & ST Amendment Act 2018

The SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 is an act of Parliament enacted to prevent atrocities against SC & ST community. This act is popularly known as POA Act, SC/ST Act, Prevention of Atrocities Act, Dalit Act, Dalit Law or Simply Atrocities Act.

The Supreme Court Bench of Justice A.K. Goel and Justice UU Lalit on 20th March, 2018 declared some provisions of SC/ST Act as unconstitutional and ruled that FIR can be lodged only after preliminary inquiry conducted within 7 days by a police officer not below the rank of DSP and arrest only after approval of SSP, in case of general public and in case of Govt. Employee arrest only after approval of his appointing authority. Supreme Court did not diluted SC/ST Act but issued guidelines to prevent its misuse.

This ruling of SC was opposed by various sections of SC/ST Community. Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Ramdass Athawale etc threatened to resign from Union Council of Ministers and asked Union Govt., to take steps to restore previous dalit law by overturning the ruling of S.C.

Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment, Thavarchand Gahlot introduced SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Bill 2018 in the Lok Sabha to nullify the SC order of 20 March 2018.

This was a shameful act of Union Govt, to overturn SC order on SC/ST Act. No law should be misused. This is vote bank politics and not a sign of healthy democracy.

This bill was passed by Lok Sabha on 6/8/18 and by RS on 9/8/18 and after getting the assent of President became SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2018. In this act Section 18A has been inserted to nullify conduct of preliminary inquiry before registration of FIR or to seek approval of any authority prior to arrest of the accused. The plea of the Union govt. is that after the SC judgement, the members of SC/ST community felt insecure about their rights but to win back their confidence and to ensure them the inclusive character of Constitution, the government decided to restore the position before the 20th March, 2018, verdict of SC. The govt. is committed to give full protection to the Dalit and Tribals and ensured that reservation policy in education institution, govt. jobs and in promotions will continue.

This amended act was challenged in S.C. Supreme Court on 10th Feb, 2020 upheld the Constitutional validity of SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2018.

3 Judge Bench of SC led by Justice Arun Mishra upheld the amendments ruling that though the provision of anticipatory bail is not available under the law, court can quash FIR in exceptional circumstances. Supreme Court also ruled that preliminary enquiry is not a must in cases of atrocities against SC/ST and no prior approval of appointing authority or senior police officers is required before filing FIR. Anticipatory bail should be granted in extraordinary situations where a denial of bail would mean miscarriage of Justice.