New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to file its reply by October 26 on a batch of pleas challenging the new amendments in the SC/ST Act.
The top court said it was listing the matter for final hearing in November and allowed several impleadment applications.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre to file the reply to the petitions within a week after he sought some time.
"Reply be filed by October 26," the bench said as it posted the matter for further hearing on November 20.
The apex court had on September 7 said that the new amendments to the SC/ST law passed by Parliament cannot be stayed at this stage.
It had sought the response of the Centre in six weeks on a batch of petitions challenging the fresh provisions of SC/ST Act.
The pleas have sought declaration of the new amendments to the Schedule Castes and Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as ultra vires.
Parliament on August 9 had passed the bill to overturn the apex court order concerning certain safeguards against arrest under the SC and ST law.
The new amendments had overturned the March 20 order on rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act and held that there shall be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law.
It had also passed a slew of directions and said a public servant can be arrested in cases lodged under the SC/ST Act only after prior approval by the competent authority.
The lead petitioner Prathvi Raj Chauhan had prayed for immediate stay of the operation of the new provisions till his petition is being heard by the court.
He had said that the government has brought in the new provisions to overrule the verdict passed by the court and without removing the defects.
The court was hearing the pleas alleging that the two Houses of Parliament had "arbitrarily" decided to amend the law and restored the previous provisions in such a manner so that an innocent cannot avail the right of anticipatory bail.
"It is submitted that in context of this SC/ST(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Section 18 A of the Atrocities Act, which excludes Section 438 of CrPC, violates constitutional mandate under Articles 14 and 21," one of the pleas said.
It alleged that after these amendments, the structure of the Act has become violative of with "basic principles of liberty and accountability".
The plea said that the court cannot remain a "mute spectator to the abuse of law" as "we are living in a civilized society and there were many growing instances of misuse of this Act, there is an apprehension that the amended law would also fast become a new tool of harassment and the arrest on the basis of mere allegation without preliminary enquiry is violation of fundamental rights".
The amendments rule out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs, notwithstanding any court order. They provide that no preliminary inquiry will be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any approval.