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

Nirma varsity demand for higher fees 'illegal', violates Article 14: Letter to Gujarat HC

Counterview Desk
Students of Gujarat’s top private institute, Nirma University, situated in the outskirts of Ahmedabad, in a letter to the Chief Justice the state High Court, have complained that the authorities are demanding “full fees” from students, without taking into account the “disproportionate impact” the lockdown has on the livelihood of students and families.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Vulnerable to Covid-19, sharp rise in murder of Indian journalists during pandemic

By Nava Thakuria*
Vulnerability of working journalists in India is no way an alien issue as the populous country loses a number of working journalists to assailants as also medical emergencies. Even though there was only one casualty in the Indian media fraternity during the first half of 2020, who was targeted for journalistic work, India has begun witnessing an alarming number of media casualties during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Govt 'assures' Gujarat HC no action against MBBS students defying corona sahayak order

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has assured the High Court that no action would be taken against Part-I and Part-II MBBS students of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-controlled NHL Medical College and LG Hospital and Medical College. The assurance follows the direction by Justice SH Vora to the State government not to prosecute or initiate action against the students who were defying the college authorities’ order to work as corona sahayaks (helpers).

Renounced US citizenship to serve workers, tribals, Sudha Bharadwaj 'odiously' in jail

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*
Professor Sudha Bharadwaj has been in jail since August 2018. She was taken into police custody on August 26, 2018 on suspicion of being involved in Maoist terror activities after Republic TV claimed that she had allegedly written a letter to Maoists and was conspiring to create public disorder and unrest in India.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Plant organic, eat fresh: Emlen Bage's journey from migrant labour to agri-entrepreneur

By Chandrashekar and Kriti*
Who is a farmer? Type this question in the google search and check out the images? You can see men thronging the screen. This is the popular perception around the globe. Well one can understand how difficult it would be for a woman to defy this perception.

High youth unemployment: India 'fails' to take advantage of demographic dividend

By Varun Kumar
As coronavirus pandemic continues amplifying challenges among youth with regard to employment opportunities, government policies have further resulted in economic slowdown, leading to mass unemployment and loss jobs. According to the International Labour Organisation report “Covid-19 and the World of Work” (May 27, 2020), around 94 percent of the world’s workers are living in countries with some sort of workplace closure measures in place.

Dichotomy? US Hindutva groups oppose racism, mum on Modi's 'anti-minority' stance

By Our Representative
The Hindus for Human Rights (HHR), a US-based advocacy group, has noticed a major dichotomy between the stance taken by RSS’ US arm, Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh (HSS), expressing “shock” at the “painful killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others”, all of which suggest “the tragic tale of racial injustice” in US, and HSS’ “hatred” for India’s religious minorities and Dalits.