The Government must file a Review Petition of TheSupremeCourt order in the SC/ST Act case.

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India has over 180 million Dalits. A crime is committed against a Dalit every 15 minutes. Six Dalit women are raped every day. Over the last 10 years (2007-2017), there has been a 66% growth in crime against Dalits. Further, data from the National Crime Records Bureau on which the Supreme Court based its recent judgment that sought to protect public servants and private citizens from arbitrary arrests under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, show that the rape of Dalit women has doubled in the last 10 years. The figures represent only a tip of the iceberg since most Dalits do not register cases for fear of retaliation by higher castes. Even if a case reaches court, the most likely outcome is acquittal due to caste biases at every stage.

Strangely, Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit in Kashinath Mahajan, adopting ‘purposive interpretation’ and invoking Ambedkar on societal fraternity, have diluted the stringent provision of denial of anticipatory bail in the SC/ST Act. The judgment gives no prominence to caste atrocities and ignores untouchability, which is still prevalent. The mischief that Parliament wanted to address too was ignored by the court. In the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, Parliament had clearly noted that when Dalits assert their rights, vested interests try to terrorise them. Accordingly, keeping in view the special nature of crimes against Dalits, anticipatory bail had been excluded. A cursory glance of crimes made punishable under the SC/ST Act would explain why. Moreover, constitutionality of this exclusion had been upheld by a five-judge bench of the apex court in Kartar Singh, which Justice Goel noted in passing.

The judgment will have a chilling effect on the already underreported crimes against Dalits. The government must go for a review.

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