A preliminary inquiry is not essential before lodging an FIR under the act nor is the approval of senior police officials, said a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
Justice Ravindra Bhat, the other member of the bench, said in a concurring verdict that every citizen needs to treat fellow citizens equally and foster the concept of fraternity.
Justice Bhat said a court can quash the FIR if a prima facie case is not made out under the SC/ST Act and the liberal use of anticipatory bail will defeat the intention of Parliament.
The top court’s verdict came on a batch of PILs challenging the validity of the SC/ST Amendment Act of 2018, which was brought to nullify the effect of the apex court’s 2018 ruling, which had diluted the provisions of the stringent Act.
The apex court had in January last year refused to stay the 2018 amendments to the SC/ST Act, which restored the provision that no anticipatory bail be granted to the accused in offence lodged under this law.
In its 2018 verdict, the apex court had taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and private individuals and said that there would be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law.
Violent protests had taken place across the country after the apex court’s verdict in which several persons lost their lives and many were injured.
Parliament on August 9, 2018 had passed the bill to overturn the apex court March 20, 2018 judgement concerning certain safeguards against arrest under the SC/ST law.
Later, the Centre had filed a petition in the top court seeking review of its March 2018 judgement.
On October 1, 2019, the apex court restored the earlier position of the law by recalling two directions in the March 2018 verdict, which provided no absolute bar on grant of anticipatory bail and prior inquiry before effecting arrest of public servant and private individual under the Act.
The 2018 amendments had ruled out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs, notwithstanding any court order.
They provided that no preliminary inquiry would be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any approval.