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Posted at: May 13, 2018, 4:53 PM; last updated: May 14, 2018, 10:32 AM (IST)

Govt plans to put SC/ST Act in Ninth Schedule

Move would insulate legislation from judicial scrutiny
Govt plans to put SC/ST Act in Ninth Schedule
Through the ordinance, the government will reintroduce provisions of the Act which it feels were diluted by the Supreme Court verdict in March this year. File

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 13

In a bid to counter its image of being seen as anti-Dalit, the Narendra Modi government has decided to not only bring an ordinance to nullify the Supreme Court verdict by putting safeguards on arrests under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, but it is also working on a Bill to put the Act in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution and thus insulate it from judicial scrutiny.

Explaining the government’s intent to deal with the situation following the apex court verdict in March on the “arrest provision” in the Act, a senior official said, “While the Bill is a permanent arrangement to ensure that the SC/ST Act’s provisions are not diluted again, the ordinance is an interim arrangement to overturn the ruling.”

The apex court ruling had triggered massive protests by various Dalit and political outfits during which over 10 persons were killed. 

The proposed ordinance would make it clear that notwithstanding any judgment or law in force, the provisions of the Act shall remain valid. 

“Once promulgated, this would mean the ordinance would overturn the SC order,” the official said.

Referring to the proposed Bill, an official said, “Once included in the Ninth Schedule, the legislation gets protection under Article 31-B (validation of certain Acts and Regulations) and is not subject to judicial scrutiny.” 

Recently, the Supreme Court had refused to stay its March 20 order diluting certain provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 

While hearing the observations by Attorney General KK Venugopal on a review petition filed by the Centre, the apex court said it was not against the Act, but the innocent should not be punished.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last month asserted that his government would not let any dilution of the law aimed at preventing atrocities on SCs and STs.

In its March 20 order, the apex court had laid down new guidelines for police officers on how to ensure that innocent people, especially public officials, are protected against false complaints under the Act.

The Bench had ordered that before an FIR was registered, a preliminary inquiry should be done to ascertain if the case fell within the parameters of the Act and was not frivolous or motivated. Any violation of these directions will be actionable by way of disciplinary action as well as contempt, it had said.

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