Prithviraj Chouhan v. UOI [2020 SCC OnLine SC 159]

Prithviraj Chouhan v. UOI [2020 SCC OnLine SC 159]

The Supreme Court deals with the constitutional validity of Section 18A of the SC ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018. 

Bench – Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran, S. Ravindra Bhat. 

Facts – The petitioners questioned the constitutionality of Section 18-A of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 201The complaint was filed on the grounds that the said Act’s provisions had been abused and that Section 18-A of the Act renders the judgement in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra & Anr. null and void.  Several protections were put in place in the Kashinath Mahajan case, but they were overruled by the act of the legislature.

The safeguards included conduct of preliminary investigation application for registration of First Information Report Before making an arrest, the investigating officer should seek permission from the appropriate authorities. It also included the provision wherein, regardless of any judgement, any court, the accused may be granted anticipatory bail. The Kashinath Mahajan Judgment sought to discourage people from misusing the Act. However, the amendment lessened the impact of Kashinath Mahajan. Following the passing of Kashinath Mahajan, the legislature went a leap to undo the judgement, which induced so much violence that thousands took to the streets and protested across India by Dalits and Adivasis groups, and introduced an amendment bill into law.

On September 7, 2018, the Supreme Court gave a further notification to the central government to publish its reply to the petition. The central government files an affidavit in response to the notice. Several petitions were filed in opposition to the 2018 Amendment.

Issues – 

  • Whether Section 18A Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 holds validity in terms of constitutional provisions or not?
  • Whether a restriction over the grant of anticipatory bail can be considered valid and whether it violates personal liberty of an individual as per the provisions of Article 21 or not?

Judgment – It was ruled by the Hon’ble court of law that Section 18A of the ST SC 2018 Amendment Act stands as constitutionally valid and declared the Kashinath Mahajan case null and void. The court also ruled that the rules established in the Kashinath Mahajan case imposed an unnecessary strain on individuals pertaining to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

When it came to section 18A of the Act, the court stated that while searching into the provision of section 18 regarding preliminary investigation before registering of FIR, the court stated that the inquiry is allowable only under the circumstances laid out in Lalita Kumari v. Government of U.P.

The court also ruled that no anticipatory bail should be granted for offenses perpetrated against people pertaining to the Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes as defined by the SC/ST Amendment Act. Furthermore, Justice Ravindra Bhat pointed out that anticipatory bail can only be granted in extraordinary circumstances, and not in every case. The court previously stated that anticipatory bail can only be provided when there is no prima facie case under the SC/SCT Act.

The court also ruled that if the alleged perpetrator is a public servant, the arrest can only be carried out with the permission of the appointing authority, and if the alleged perpetrator is a non-public servant, the arrest can only be carried out with the approval of the Senior Superintendent of Police.

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