The Supreme Court of India held the provisions under Section 18 and 18A of the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 constitutionally valid.
Facts of The Case
In 2018, The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 was Amended by the parliament to provide better legal remedies under the Act.
Section 18 of the Act was amended and Section 18A was added as well by the Amendment of 2018.
By the Amendment Act of 2018, under Section 18A, it was stated that to register an FIR against any person an inquiry is not required and the Officer investigating the matter does not need approval for arresting such person against whom such FIR is registered or a person who has committed an offense under the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018.
The provisions under Section 18A also stated that the Anticipatory Bail given under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code shall not be applied to the cases falling under this section.
However, in the case Prathvi Raj Chauhan v/s Union of India, a writ petition was filed for the judicial review, against the provisions under the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 to declare them as unconstitutional.
It was prayed before the Apex Court that the provisions made under Section 18 and 18A under the Amendment Act 2018, were violative against the right of equality under Article 14 and the right of life and liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The applicant stated before the Court that the provisions and benefits given under the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 were being misused and many false FIR and complaints were filed the Act.
In the defense of the parliament, it was stated before the court that the provisions under the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 were made to fasten the procedure under the Act and to speed up the deliverance of the justice.
It was asked before the court that even if Article 17 of the Indian Constitution provides for the prohibition of Untouchability, whether the Untouchability has vanished?
While defending the side of the Parliament it was mentioned that in the case of Khadak Singh v/s state of Himachal Pradesh, Supreme Court stated that, “Article 21 does not only give the right to life but right to live with dignity.” However, persons falling under the act of Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities), have been tortured for many generations without providing proper relief for it.
In its defense, it was also added by the Parliament that the offenses under the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is cognizable, which means that as per the First Schedule, the police officer for the time being in force can arrest a person who has committed an offense under the act, without any warrant and can start an investigation without permission of the court.
The Union of India stated before the court that The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 was amended in 2016 and 2018 to make its provision more effective and it was constitutional and valid.
Issues of the Case
During the pendency of the suit, the following issues were arose
The Judgment of the Case
The triple judge bench consisting J. Arun Mishra, J. Vineet Saran, and J. S. Ravindra Bhat while giving its decision stated that,
the Statutes like under the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act are framed to promote equality and fraternity mentioned and provided under Article 14 and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution.
In the Amendment of 2018, the Parliament intended to eradicate the delay caused in the inquiry while filing the FIR and removed the complications in the enforcement of the law under the Act.
In the matter of Anticipatory Bail, when there is no prima facie evidence about the commencement of crime under the Act, the court can quash the proceedings and grant the bail.
Also, the right to a fair trial is provided to every person who is being accused of committing an offense under the Act.
This Court finds the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act as constitutional and valid.