Skip to main content

Supreme Court bench relied on "Gujarat model" while delivering controversial SC-ST blackmail ruling of March 20

A Maharashtra rally on April 2 opposing "blackmail" order
By Rajiv Shah
Was the Supreme Court bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit guided by what many consider the "much-hyped" Gujarat model while delivering its controversial judgment of March 20, which ruled that innocent citizens were being blackmailed under provisions of the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (POA Act)?
A closer look at the Supreme Court judgment reveals that of the five High Court judgments quoted by the bench for insisting upon its blackmail argument, three were delivered by the Gujarat High Court. The other two were delivered by the Madras High Court and the Bombay High Court.
Bringing this to light, Gujarat’s well-known Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan says, what is especially strange is, the Supreme Court did not even consider the fact that only 2.33% of India’s SC population lives in Gujarat.
Suggesting that “while Gujarat has 8.5% of India’s ST population, too, the blackmail claim is particularly directed at SCs”, Macwan says, “Gujarat being quoted maximum, High Court observations for misuse of the Act seems to have become a model for the contention on the misuse of the anti-atrocities Act.”
Wondering “what about 97% of SCs and 91.5% of STs who live in the rest of India”, Macwan insists, “Gujarat does not fall in the list first five states where maximum atrocities are recorded.”
The first Gujarat High Court judgment that the apex court uses is Dr NT Desai vs State of Gujarat of 1997. The judgment says talks of a “scheming, unscrupulous complainants”, who get arrested accused “on some false allegations of having committed non-bailable offence under the Atrocity Act.”
The second Gujarat High Court judgment, quoted by the apex court, is the Dhiren Prafulbhai Shah vs State of Gujarat of 2016. Delivering the judgment, the judge observes, “In the course of my present sitting, I have come across various cases wherein the provisions of Atrocities Act are misused.”
Martin Macwan
The judge continues, “I find that various complaints are filed immediately after elections, be it Panchayat, Municipal or Corporation, alleging offence under the Atrocities Act”, leading to the conclusion, “I have no hesitation in saying that, in most of the cases, it was found that the FIR.s/complaints were filed only to settle the score with their opponents after defeat in the elections.”
It elaborates, “I have also come across various cases, wherein, private civil disputes arising out of property, monetary matters, dispute between an employee and employer, dispute between the subordinate and his superior are given penal and the complaints are being filed either under Section 190 r/w. 200 or FIRs at the police station”, adding, “The matter in hand is one another example of misuse of the Act…” 
The judge observes, “An Act enacted for laudable purpose can also become unreasonable, when it is exercised over-zealously by the enforcing authorities for extraneous reasons. It is for the authorities to guard against such misuse of power conferred on them.”
Especially taking exception to Section 18 of the POA, it says, the law “imposes a bar so far as the grant of anticipatory bail is concerned if the offence is one under the Atrocities Act”, even though, “a person is accused having committed murder, dacoity, rape, etc. can pray for anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the CrPC on the ground that he is innocent…”
The third Gujarat High Court judgment the apex court quotes is Pankaj D Suthar vs State of Gujarat of 1992, which wonders “whether any statute like the present Atrocities Act, especially enacted for the purposes of protecting weaker sections of the society hailing from SC and ST communities can be permitted to be abused by conveniently converting the same into a weapon of wrecking personal vengeance on the opponents?”
The judgment says, “The answer to this question is undoubtedly and obviously No”, adding Section 18 of the Atrocities Act quite cannot be followed “mechanically and blindly, merely guided by some general and popular prejudices based on some words and tricky accusations”.
If this happens, the judgment underlines, “Then it would be simply unwittingly and credulously playing in the hands of some scheming unscrupulous complainant in denying the justice.”

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Modi model? "Refusal" to build Narmada's micro canals, keep Kutch dry; help industry

By Medha Patkar*
This is the latest photograph of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) of the Sardar Sarovar, as of April 8! What does it show, expose, and what memories do you recall? Is it dry or dead? Is it a canal or a carcass of the same?

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

Indian talc products contain "contaminated" asbestos structures, can cause cancer: Study

Counterview Desk
A recent study, using polarizing light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and X-ray analysis on multiple over-the-counter Indian talc products for the presence of asbestos, has concluded that large quantities of body talc products are likely to pose a public health risk for asbestos-related diseases, especially for the cancers related to asbestos exposure.

Why are you silent on discrimination against Dalit jawans? Macwan questions Modi

By Rajiv Shah
Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.

Jharkhand Adivasi lynched to death by mob "chanting" Jai Shri Ram: Fact-finding team

Counterview Desk
On April 10, 2019, Prakash Lakda, a 50-year old Adivasi of Jurmu village of Gumla’s Dumri block, was lynched to death by a mob of men from the Sahu community of neighbouring Jairagi village. Three other victims from Jurmu – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – sustained severe injuries due to the beating by the mob. A fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), comprising of several activists and representatives of member organisations, conducted a fact-finding inquiry into the incident on April 14-15.

Investigation shows Narmada downstream "seriously" polluted. Reason: apathy, greed

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai*
Our investigation regarding quality of water flowing in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), dated April 6, 2019, between 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. reiterates, what is commonly known now, that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is planned without considering its impact on the downstream Narmada River stretch of 161 kilometres, its ecology, biodiversity and fishery, and lakhs of people living close to and dependent on the river directly or indirectly. This, in turn, has led to its present disastrous state.

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.