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No anticipatory bail in dalit atrocity case: High Court
December, 07th 2011

Any person, accused of committing atrocity against people belonging to scheduled castes/tribes, shall not get anticipatory bail, the Gujarat high court has ruled.

The court was deciding on crucial question whether stringent provisions contained in special law - the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 - have specific bar on a person's right to anticipatory bail as per CrPC.

Pravinchandra Solanki and four others were booked for beating and abusing a dalit in Shahpur area of the city. Fearing arrest as they were also booked by cops under the Atrocities Act, all five moved HC for anticipatory bail. Their counsel cited different judgments by HC in the past, in which persons booked under the Atrocities Act were granted protection against arrest.

Justice Anant Dave found this quite opposite to the provisions contained in section 18 of the Act. The judge cited a judgment by full bench of Rajasthan high court on the same issue, in which the conclusions were contrary. Justice Dave felt that benches of Gujarat high court that granted anticipatory bail in cases of dalit atrocities might not have noticed the Rajashtan HC's order, or a similar order delivered by a Madhya Pradesh high court.

Finding earlier orders in contradiction with orders of other high courts, Justice Dave referred the issue to a division bench for interpretation of law - whether accused in the atrocity cases can be given anticipatory bail by HC while exercising its powers under 438 of CrPC, particularly when there is an embargo in section 18 of Atrocities Act that provisions of 438 would not apply in cases of this special act.

A bench of Justice A L Dave and Justice Bankim Mehta heard the issue at length, where in the applicants counsel argued that flat denial of anticipatory bail is violative of provisions of freedom granted in Article 21 of the Constitution. In a rebuttal, advocate general Kamal Trivedi cited a Supreme Court order in this regard and contended that the provisions of special act are meant for denial of relief in dalit atrocity related cases.

The division bench observed, "Once a provision of law enacted by Legislature, is held to be not unconstitutional or violative of Article 21 of the Constitution, it stands on statute book and has to be read as it is... The Section has to be read and given its ordinary meaning." In such circumstances, an accused under the Atrocities Act cannot even seek anticipatory bail, neither a court can grant it, the bench concluded.

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