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A jam packed court room 11 of the Supreme Court was privy to one of the most keenly followed review petitions in recent times.
A Bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit heard Attorney General KK Venugopal and Amicus Curiae Amarendra Sharan in the review petition filed by the Central government challenging the Court’s verdict on the SC/ST Act.
Ultimately, the Bench adjourned the matter for ten days, allowing parties time to file written submissions. While doing so, the Bench refused to stay its judgment.
What was characteristic of the hearing today was that the submissions by AG KK Venugopal were met with strong resistance by the Bench, which time and again observed that the Court has not diluted the Act at all, but has only regulated police power in accordance with the existing law.
Venugopal told the Court that the entire judgment has proceeded on the basis that the Act has been abused. This, he stated, could not be a ground to dilute the provisions of the Act.
He also referred to the conditions of SC/STs and the atrocities they have had to suffer over many centuries.
“They have been subjected to tremendous atrocities for hundreds and hundreds of years. The victim is entitled to the protection of Article 21”, he said.
“We are not against the Act at all. We are only concerned with innocent people being put behind bars. We have only reiterated the settled law of arrest, the settled law under CrPC”, replied Justice Goel.
Amicus Curiae Amarendra Sharan also agreed with the views of the Bench.
“Whatever Your Lordships have said about this law applies equally to any provision of criminal law. Not a single provision of the Act has been diluted. Your Lordships have not declared any provision of the Act ultra vires…
…Only thing done is to regulate police from exercising arbitrary arrest in accordance with existing law. You have interpreted the power of police as per CrPC, not the SC/ST Act. There have been different such guidelines for various other cases”, said Sharan.
The Court then proceeded to allow parties to file written submissions before adjourning the matter.