A Bench comprising of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S. Ravindra Bhat while dealing with the validity and constitutionality of Section 18A of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, inserted vide an amendment in 2018, observed that the provisions of section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Anticipatory Bail) shall not apply to the cases under SC-ST Act however, if the complaint does not make out a prima facie case for applicability of the provisions of the Act of 1989, the bar created by section 18 and 18A(i) shall not apply.
The Bench further held that “the court can, in exceptional cases, exercise power under section 482 Cr.PC for quashing the cases to prevent misuse of provisions on settled parameters”.
While upholding the provisions of the SC-ST Act, it said:
“Concerning the provisions contained in section 18A, suffice it to observe that with respect to preliminary inquiry for registration of FIR, we have already recalled the general directions (iii) and (iv) issued in Dr. Subhash Kashinath’s case (supra). A preliminary inquiry is permissible only in the circumstances as per the law laid down by a Constitution Bench of this Court in Lalita Kumari v. Government of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1, shall hold good as explained in the order passed by this Court in the review petitions on 1.10.2019 and the amended provisions of section 18A have to be interpreted accordingly.
The section 18A(i) was inserted owing to the decision of this Court in Dr. Subhash Kashinath (supra), which made it necessary to obtain the approval of the appointing authority concerning a public servant and the SSP in the case of arrest of accused persons. This Court has also recalled that direction on Review Petition (Crl.) No.228 of 2018 decided on 1.10.2019. Thus, the provisions which have been made in section 18A are rendered of academic use as they were enacted to take care of mandate issued in Dr. Subhash Kashinath (supra) which no more prevails. The provisions were already in section 18 of the Act with respect to anticipatory bail.”
Justice S. Ravindra Bhat added a caveat with an observation that:
“while considering any application seeking pre-arrest bail, the High Court has to balance the two interests: i.e. that the power is not so used as to convert the jurisdiction into that under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code, but that it is used sparingly and such orders made in very exceptional cases where no prima facie offence is made out as shown in the FIR, and further also that if such orders are not made in those classes of cases, the result would inevitably be a miscarriage of justice or abuse of process of law. I consider such stringent terms, otherwise contrary to the philosophy of bail, absolutely essential, because a liberal use of the power to grant pre-arrest bail would defeat the intention of Parliament.”