Supreme Court directions under Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989


Preeti Bhandari

The two judge bench comprised of Hon'ble Mr. Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Hon'ble Mr. JusticeUday Umesh Lalit vide their judgement dated 20/03/2018 has issued guidelines to prevent the misuse of the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (the Atrocities Act).

The bench, while hearing the matter titled "Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan Vs. The State of Maharashtra and Anr.", which had been filed under Sections 3(1)(ix), 3(2)(vi) and 3(2)(vii) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (the Atrocities Act) and also Sections 182, 192, 193, 203 and 219 read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC),has issued various directions to stop abuse of the act.

The bench has issued guidelines regarding prosecution of cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The same are mentioned herein below:

 There is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the  Atrocities Act, if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide. 

 The Hon'ble Court banned registration of criminal complaint without prior investigation. 

 The Hon'ble Court also said that a preliminary enquiry should be conducted by the concerned DSP to find out whether the allegations covered under the Atrocities Act are not frivolous or motivated. Such inquiry must be time-bound and should not exceed seven days in view of directions in Lalita Kumari (supra). 80. Even if preliminary inquiry is held and case is registered, arrest is not a must.

The Hon'ble Court held that there is no automatic or mandatory arrest under the Act.

 The Hon'ble Court also directed that the arrest of a public servant can only be made after approval by the appointing authority;

 The Hon'ble Court also directed that in case of private citizen arrest can only be made after approval by the S.S.P. which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded. Such reasons must be scrutinized by the Magistrate for permitting further detention.

 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 Magistrate, the Magistrate must apply his mind to the reasons recorded and further detention should be allowed only if the reasons recorded are found to be valid. To avoid false implication, before FIR is registered, preliminary enquiry may be made whether the case falls in the parameters of the Atrocities Act and is not frivolous or motivated.

  The Hon'ble Court further said that any violation of the directions issued by the   Court will be actionable by way of disciplinary action as well as contempt.

  The Hon'ble Court directed that the directions made in the case are only prospective and not retrospective.

  The bench approved the view taken by the Gujarat High Court in Pankaj D Suthar ((1992) 1 GLR 405) and Dr. N.T. Desai ( (1997) 2 GLR 942) and clarified the judgments of the Supreme Court in the Balothia ( (1995) 3 SCC 221) and Manju Devi cases.( (2017) 13 SCC 439).

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