Supreme Court hints at recalling verdict on SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act
The top court said people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are subjected to "discrimination" and "untouchability" even after over 70 years of Independence.
The government had said that caste atrocities were still a “reality” in India and had urged the top court to review the ruling to ensure that the law acted as a deterrent against such offences. The bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit had given the ruling. Justice Goel has since demitted office. The CJI posted it for hearing before a three-member bench led by Justice Arun Mishra. The other two judges on the bench were Justices MR Shah and BR Gavai.
Justice Mishra heard the AG’s plea to review the ruling and reserved his orders on the issue.
Attorney General KK Venugopal argued that the law was a special law enacted to deal with special circumstances which exist in this country. The court ruling dilutes the rigour of the law, he suggested.
Justice Mishra, however, did not mince words on the ruling hinting that it was wrong. There cannot be two different regimes for filing of cases for separate castes, he stated. “It is not permissible to treat SCs/STs as a different class,” he said.
The judges reserved orders on the issue but not before they had sharply criticised the institutionalised discrimination against the Dalits in the country. “They are human beings. They are not meant to die like this. This is most inhuman,” Justice Mishra said, alluding to deaths of 4-5 Dalits on average while engaged in manual scavenging in “gas chambers” that are the sewers.
“Why are you not providing them with masks, oxygen cylinders and other equipment,” he demanded of the AG. “Will you change your place with them? 70 years have passed but there is no improvement in their condition,” he said.