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Dalit MPs cut across party lines to demand review of Supreme Court order diluting protections under SC/ST Act

The Supreme Court's order diluting the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act continues to draw fierce opposition from leaders and parties across the political spectrum.

On Wednesday, Dalit MPs belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) met Union minister for social justice and empowerment, Thaawar Chand Gehlot, and urged him to take up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reported The Indian Express. Sources told the newspaper that the MPs have also asked for a review petition to be filed in court against the verdict.

The Congress too asked for a review of the judgment. It described the order as "unfortunate", and claimed it led to a "sense of insecurity" among Dalits and other oppressed classes.

Alleging a rise in atrocities against Dalits under the NDA government, the Congress expressed serious concerns over the apex court's judgment and demanded a review or an amendment to the law. Senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma asked the government to clarify its stand on the issue, claiming there was a "sense of insecurity" among Dalits and other oppressed classes after the apex court verdict.

 Dalit MPs cut across party lines to demand review of Supreme Court order diluting protections under SC/ST Act

Representational image. Reuters

"There are serious concerns over Tuesday's decision of the Supreme Court. If it is not reviewed, it will be very unfortunate. There is a feeling of insecurity among the SC/STs and other oppressed classes. We feel a review of this decision will be in the national interest. Why is the government silent on this issue? The government should clarify its stand and should present its version before the Supreme Court through the attorney general. If the government remains silent, it means it supports the decision," Sharma told reporters.

Party MP Kumari Selja alleged this insecurity was a result of the BJP-RSS' policy, saying the government is "conspiring to end reservation".

Jyotiraditya Scindia, chief whip of Congress in Lok Sabha, also said BJP and RSS want to end reservation and neither the prime minister nor any other minister from the central government has yet given any clarification on the issue.

The executive committee of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch (DSMM) appealed to the Centre to challenge the judgement, arguing it would have a "negative impact" on the concept of social justice. The manch expressed grave concern over the verdict and dubbed it "unfortunate".

It also demanded that the Centre file a review petition immediately, so that the SC/ST Act remains effective. Ramchandra Dom, general secretary of the organisation and former MP, said in a statement, "This judgement has a negative impact on the concept of social justice which is a basic principle enshrined in the Constitution."

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the arrest of an accused under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, is not mandatory and recourse to coercive action would be only after preliminary inquiry and sanction by the competent authority. Coupled with this, the court said, that there was also no "absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide".

"... we direct that in absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected" without the permission of appointing authority in case of public servant or that of Senior Superintendent of Police in case of general public, said the bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit in its judgment.

The bench said it provided for the safeguard "in view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest" under the Act.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Goel said, "It is necessary to express concern that 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."

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 12:34:36 IST