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

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Actionable programme for 2019 polls amidst lynch mobs, caste violence, hate mongering

Counterview Desk
Reclaiming the Republic, a civil rights network, has released a document prepared under the chairmanship of Justice AP Shah (retired) -- and backed, among others, by Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, economist Prabhat Patnaik, Right to transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj and social scientist Yogendra Yadav  (click HERE for full list) -- with the "aim" of putting forth policy and legislative reforms needed to “protect” and “strengthen” the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity.

Noam Chomsky, top scholars ask NRIs to take stand on human rights violations in India

Counterview Desk
Renowned world scholars, including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler, among others, have issued a statement castigating the Narendra Modi government for allegedly creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence.

India under Modi "promoted" crony business, protected financial fraudsters, fueled bigotry

By Sandeep* and Rahul Pandey**
Narendra Modi's ascension to power was accompanied with jubilation and expectation. His supporters were expecting an end to era of corruption and initiation of good governance which was described as Achche Din. His party's adherence to idea of nationalism was believed to make India a vibrant country and guide India to be a world leader. He gave the slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' conveying that his government was for all.
Corruption The government system is infested with corruption. A minimum of 10% is siphoned off from government schemes and projects, some of which goes back to political party in power and remaining is pocketed by various administrative, executive and political functionaries. This corruption continues and has increased. Now an additional Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) person working as Official on Special Duty or some equivalent position in every government department also has a share in this booty.
The Narendra M…

Inviting Rajapaksa to India "insult" to 1,40,000 Tamils killed by Sri Lankan army

Counterview Desk
In the context of Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa being invited in India, about 75 human rights activists*, claiming to be concerned about rights violations during the civil war in Sri Lanka, especially in 2009, have joined together to express their dissent through a statement.

A Godse legacy? BJP rulers have "refrained" from calling Gandhi Father of the Nation

By Dr Hari Desai*
What an agony! On one hand, the entire India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but on the other side, so-called Hindu Mahasabha members have been found mock-enacting the killing of the Mahatma and celebrating the murder by distributing sweets!

No aadhaar, no ration? Hard blow by Gujarat govt on poor and marginalized

By Pankti Jog*
Only those who have aadhaar registration and linked it with ration card will get ration from a Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. This decision of the Gujarat government has hit very badly thousands of poor and marginalized communities of Gujarat, especially during the drought year.

Post-advisory, Govt of India appears reluctant to ban e-cigarettes, "harmful" to kids

By Rajiv Shah
Is the Government of India dilly-dallying over the issue of banning e-cigarettes, which have been declared by anti-tobacco activists across the world as providing “an entryway to nicotine addiction”, especially among the kids? It would seem so, if the latest developments are any guide.

Not just Indian women engineers, men too face sexual harassment at workplace: US study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent research, carried out jointly by two US-based non-profit organizations, Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Center for WorkLife Law (WLL), based at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, has found that 45% of women engineers as against 28% of men engineers complained that it was perceived as “inappropriate when women argued at work, even when it was work-related.”

Poser to Modi: Why is Gujarat not fulfilling Constitutional obligations to minorities?

Counterview Desk
In an open letter, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi on infringing upon MCC activists’ constitutional right to protest. Nafees says, they had no other demands except that the Gujarat government should move towards fulfilling the constitutional obligations towards minorities and international treaties to which India is a signatory.