Fault lines in a ‘landmark’ judgment(Hindu summary-21st July 2018)

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Fault lines in a ‘landmark’ judgment

The Hindu


  • The Supreme Court’s judgment in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan versus State of Maharashtra has caused much consternation across the country among Dalits and Adivasis.
  • In this case SC framed guidelines on how to deal with a person accused under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Objective of SC verdict:

  • Protect the people who are wrongly charged or confined under the act.
  • Protecting innocent officers and employees in government and private sectors from the misuse of the Act (especially “when no prima facie case is made out or the case is patently false or mala fide”).

Reasons for SC verdict:

  • A large number of acquittals in atrocities cases.

Criticism on SC verdict:

  • This verdict is diluting the SC/ST act.
  • Also it is collapsing the constitutional scheme to protect the weaker sections of society
  • The government is rather lightfooted in seeking a recall/revision of the verdict.
  • The judgement sent dangerous message that the Atrocities Act is “a charter for exploitation or oppression,” and “an instrument of blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance”.
  • Inadequate precise data on the scale and extent to which the Act has been misused by SC/ST employees.


The demand for “an inbuilt provision” to protect those falsely accused under the Act was first raised by a parliamentary committee in December 2014 and the apex court did so in March 2018.


  • The task of balancing the rights of innocent persons facing false accusations and the need to accord legitimacy to the Atrocities Act requires compassion, equanimity, reverence for the Constitution and awareness so even impromptu comments from the top court will acquire the force of law. Unfortunately, the verdict lost that balance.


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