New Delhi: In a setback to the Centre, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to put on hold its March 20 verdict related to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, asserting that its verdict aims to protect innocents and not dilute the law for checking crimes against Dalits.
A Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit said, “We have said that innocents should not be penalised. The innocents cannot be terrorised by the provisions of the SC/ST Act. We don’t want to deprive anyone of right to life and we make ourselves very clear that we are not against the Act or the complainants.” They had delivered the March 20 judgement.
The Bench, which agreed to hear the Centre’s review petition in open court, said that its verdict can only be reviewed if there is a “patent error” in law.
The apex court had said on March 20 that a preliminary inquiry should precede the arrest of an accused under the Act and that accused are entitled to anticipatory bail.
Declining Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s plea to suspend the direction that a preliminary inquiry should be conducted by a police officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police before an arrest can be made under the Act, the court asked, “Why does the government want people to be arrested without verification?” “Liberty can’t be taken away without a preliminary inquiry. There shouldn’t be any terror in society for innocent persons,” it said.