The court said the anti-atrocities law brought in to protect the SCs and STs from casteist slurs and discrimination has become an instrument for blackmail of innocent citizens and public servants.
It noted that it has been seen in last three decades that complaints were filed by those belonging to the marginalised sections to exact “vengeance” and satisfy vested interests.
“Innocent citizens are termed as accused, which is not intended by the legislature. The legislature never intended to use the Atrocities Act as an instrument to blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit said.
The court laid down guidelines as safeguards against the misuse of the law, saying the working of the Atrocities Act should not result in “perpetuating casteism” which can have an adverse impact on integration of the society and the constitutional values.
“There is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide,” the court said.
The court directed a preliminary inquiry may be conducted by the DSP to to find out whether the allegations make out a case and that those are not frivolous or motivated, in order to avoid false implication of an innocent person.
In its 89-page judgement, the court said instead of blurring caste lines, the Act has been misused to file false complaints to promote caste hatred.
The current working of law may even “perpetuate casteism” if not brought in line and the court needs to intervene to check the “false implication of innocent citizens on caste lines”, the bench said.
The 1989 Act penalised casteist insults and even denies anticipatory bail to the suspected offenders.
It also noted public servants found difficult to give adverse remarks against employees for fear that they may be charged under the Act. “They can be blackmailed with the threat of a false case without any protection of law,” the court said.