SC/ST review petition hearing deferred, will be taken up after summer vacation

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit today adjourned the hearing in the SC/ST review petition until July, after the Summer vacations.

Justice Goel told the parties that the Court wants to hear the arguments of all the parties and satisfy all the Counsel.

Justice AK Goel will retire from his office on July 6 and hence he will have to finish hearing the matter within a week after the Supreme Court reopens on July 2.

Justifying the contentious judgment passed by the same Bench in March this year, Justice Goel also told Attorney General KK Venugopal that even the Parliament does not have the right to infringe upon one’s fundamental right to life and liberty. Justice Goel made this remark in the context of provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

If there is a sword hanging on a person’s head that he can just be put behind bars without a fair procedure, then we are not living in a civilized society“, Justice Goel said.

Justice Goel also said that the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution ought to be read with every law and Article 21 cannot be denied in any case.

Noting that no arrests can made without following fair procedure, Justice Goel said that the mandate of the Supreme Court and Article 21 of the Constitution will have to be read into every law.

He also said that it is against one’s fundamental rights to be arrested without a due procedure and based on a one-sided story.

The review petition has been filed against a judgment passed in March, in which the Court had held that prior sanction of the appointing authority is required for prosecuting officers for acts done by them with respect to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (‘SC/ST Act’) in their official capacity.

To this effect, the judgment in question states,

“…no arrest may be effected, if an accused person is a public servant, without written permission of the appointing authority and if such a person is not a public servant, without written permission of the Senior Superintendent of Police of the District.”

This led to a backlash with SC/ST communities across the country taking to the streets. The Centre was then quick to file a review petition against the judgment contending, inter alia, that the alleged potential for misuse of the statute cannot be a ground for reading down the SC/ST Act.

The Centre has taken the stance that the March 20 judgment would have wide ramifications and that it would adversely affect a substantial population of SC/STs.

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