Supreme Court upholds amendments made to nullify own judgment diluting provisions of SC/ST Act

GS Paper II

Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Mains: Importance of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2018.

What’s the News?

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2018.

  • Preliminary enquiry not a must
  • Approval from higher authorities for arrests not needed.
  • Anticipatory bail provision not available
  • Courts can however quash FIRs in exceptional circumstances.

However, pre-arrest bail should be granted only in extraordinary situations where refusal of bail would imply miscarriage of justice.

Background:

The Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes (prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 is meant to speed action on complaints of violence against Dalits.

  • The SC, in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan vs State of Maharashtra held on March 20,2018:
  • In this, the apex court had taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and private individuals and said that there would be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law.
  • No absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail under the anti-atrocities law if no prima facie case is made out or if judicial scrutiny reveals the complaint to be prima facie mala fide.
  • Violent protests had taken place across the country after the apex court’s verdict in which several persons lost their lives and many were injured.

SC/ ST Amendment Act, 2018:

  • It inserts Section 18A in the original Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act of 1989.

Section 18A reaffirms the original legislative intention that Section 438 CrPC (pre-arrest bail) is not applicable to accused booked under the atrocities law.

  • It had ruled out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs, notwithstanding any court order.
  • They provided that no preliminary inquiry would be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any approval.
  • The amendments were challenged as arbitrary.

February 10, 2020 judgement in Prathvi Raj Chouhan case:

  • Justice Arun Mishra and Vineet saran uphold Section-18A.
  • However, the judges add that the High courts will have an ‘’inherent power’’ to grant anticipatory bail in cases in which prima facia an offence under the 1989 law is not made out.

Arguments against the amendment:

  • The amendments were called as a “blunder” and a violation of the fundamental right to equality and personal liberty. The Supreme Court, however, had refused to stay the implementation of the amendments.
  • The government had responded that there was no decrease in the atrocities committed on members of SC/ST communities despite the laws meant to protect their civil rights.

Arguments for/ Significance:

  • The Act is conceived as a strong safeguard against castes and tribes that have been historically exploited and abused. Emancipation of the Dalits and tribal communities are also important electoral promises used by various political parties to garner votes in the elections. Dalits are an important segment of the population in many states and make up nearly 200 million of the country’s total population of 1.3 billion.
  • Any perceived dilution of the safeguards provided in the SC/ST Act can lead to charged emotions and expression of anger as was evident in the protests of April 2. The violence that took place during the protests left 10 people dead in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Conclusion:

  • It is important to emphasise that unless provisions of the Act are enforced in their true letter and spirit, with utmost earnestness and dispatch, the dream and ideal of a casteless society will remain only a dream, a mirage.
  • The act underline the social or collective resolve to ensure that ‘’all humans are treated as humans, that their innate genius is allowed outlets through equal opportunities and each of them is fearless in the pursuit of her or his dreams’’.
  • Though independent Indian state has introduced many measures to curb the atrocities and usher in socio-economic justice, the results are often not satisfactory. Legislations have been passed repeatedly on this subject is proof of the fact that the law alone cannot end this social practice.
  • By socio-cultural upliftment of SC/ST through their meaningful integration into society, by giving adequate capacity building opportunities through education, employment etc. must be the end of this struggle.

 


Draft national policy on rare diseases published, Centre tells Madras HC

GS Paper III

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

Prelims: Rare diseases

What’s the News?

  • After being directed by the Madras High Court, on January 6, to consider the issue of providing medical care to those suffering from the rare Lysosomal Storage Disorders (LSD) as a “national emergency”.

Rare disease:

  • WHO defines rare disease as often debilitating lifelong disease or disorder condition with a prevalence of 1 or less, per 1000 population.
  • However, different countries have their own definitions to suit their specific requirements and in context of their own population, health care system and resources.
  • So far only about 450 rare diseases have been recorded in India from tertiary care hospitals (10).
  • The most common rare diseases include Haemophilia, Thalassemia, Sickle-cell Anaemia and Primary Immuno Deficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders

The lysosomal storage disorders (LSD):

  • These are a group of about 50 diseases that are characterised by an accumulation of waste products in the lysosomes, resulting in the formation of large intracellular vacuoles.
  • Lysosomes are sacs of enzymes within cells that digest large molecules and pass the fragments on to other parts of the cell for recycling.
  • Some of these disorders are Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemangiomas and certain forms of muscular dystrophies.

Need for a policy on rare disease:

Rare diseases are, in most cases, serious, chronic, debilitating and life threatening illnesses, often requiring long-term and specialised treatments/management.

Challenges in treatment:

  • Unavailability of treatment: Availability and access to medicines are important to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with rare diseases.
  • Prohibitive cost of treatment: As the number of persons suffering from individual rare diseases is small, they do not constitute a significant market for drug manufacturers to develop and bring to market drugs for them. For this reason, rare diseases are also called ‘orphan diseases’ and drugs to treat them are called “orphan drugs”.

Policy on rare diseases:

  • The draft policy had categorised rare disorders amenable to one-time curative treatment such as Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) and disorders that were amenable to organ transplantation into one group, and states that they could be provided with financial support.
  • A maximum of ₹15 lakh could be provided to each patient under the umbrella scheme of Rashtriya Arokya Nidhi and that the beneficiaries would not be limited to families below the poverty line.
  • Instead, support would be extended to 40% of population in accordance with the norms of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

Conclusion:

Centre as well as the State government needs to deliberate further after taking note of efforts being made globally to address the medical needs of those suffering from rare diseases.