Day 4 Arguments: 24th January 2019 

A 2 Judge Bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra is hearing a challenge to the the 2018 Amendment to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. They only briefly heard the matter and then listed it for 26th March 2019.

 

The 2018 Amendment to the Prevention of Atrocities Act introduced Section 18A, which effectively nullified the Supreme Court judgment in Kashinath Mahajan.  Kashinath Mahajan had introduced three safeguards with the aim of preventing the misuse of the Prevention of Atrocities Act:

  1. Conduct a preliminary inquiry prior to the registration of a First Incident Report (FIR)

  2. Investigation officer must receive further approval prior to effectuating an arrest

  3. Grant anticipatory bail to any accused, notwithstanding any judgment or order or direction of any Court.

 

Unusually, the Court has clubbed together the challenges to the 2018 Amendment with the pending review petitions challenging Kashinath Mahajan.

 

In the previous hearing, the petitioner Priya Sharma sought for a stay on the operation of the 2018 Amendment. Her Counsel, Vikas Singh, pointed out that there cannot be review hearings and a substantive challenge to the Amendment at the same time. The Court declined to stay the Amendment and listed the matter for today, for a final hearing.

 

Today, Justice Lalit opened the hearing by asking the parties to provide the Bench with an estimate of how long they will take to present arguments. Senior Advocate Indira Jaising and Attorney General KK Venugopal both stated they would require one day. Further Amicus Curiae Saran stated he would require around a day. Accordingly, Justice Lalit stated the Court would take up the matter for three days, starting on 26th March.

 

However, Ms. Jaising responded by stating that three days would not be sufficient, given the large number of parties and suggested that the Court could consider letting the matter spill over should it take longer than 4 days.

 

In addition, Ms. Jaising suggested that the Court no longer needed the assistance of an Amicus Curiae. She highlighted that the Amicus was appointed in Kashinath Mahajan in order to represent the legislature. Now, however, the Union of India is represented by the Attorner General in this challenge to the 2018 Amendment.

 

Taking note of the fact that the counsels for the petitioners and the respondents submitted that at least 3 working days would be required to hear the matter, the Court ordered the matter to be listed on 26th March 2019. The case will be heard over the course of the week beginning on the said date. 

(Court reporting by Disha Chaudhry)