Under attack for allegedly pursuing anti-Dalit politics, the BJP-led NDA dispensation in the centre on Tuesday said in the event of a non-favourable verdict from the Supreme Court on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the government will bring forward an Ordinance to restore original spirit of the law.
The announcement was made by NDA dispensation's much known Dalit face and Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in Karnataka. "I want to make one thing clear, from government side a request has been made to the Supreme Court that its order on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 be withdrawn. If the Supreme Court does not allow the previous Act then government has decided to issue an Ordinance wherein the old law without changing comma, a full stop will remain enforced," Mr Paswan told reporters at BJP Media Centre here.
Paswan seems to have been fielded by BJP for a media interaction here days before the May 12 polls to the 224-member Karnataka assembly as the Modi government in the centre from time to time has come under attack for pursuing an alleged anti-Dalit policies. The Dalit factor is crucial in the Karnataka polls this year as about 16.2 per cent of total population in the state comprise of Scheduled Castes. Mr Paswan said besides the 'Atrocities Act' another issue that bothers the citizens belonging to the SC-ST segment is the "Reservation in promotion".
"The Reservation in promotion is not today's issue. It is pending since the time of Congress......The Reservation in promotion was also handled with necessary amendments. Three times such amendments were carried out during the first NDA regime during the tenure of Atal Behari Vajpayee," he said. On the stay in reservation in promotion, he said the Centre has also taken note of the issue and under the directives a high-powered committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
"I am also in that committee. We have already taken a decision that the government through attorney general will go to the Supreme Court and request it to withdraw certain conditions put by the apex court. If in this case also, there is no order from the court, the government will issue an Ordinance," Mr Paswan said. It may be mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asserted that his government will not let the law to prevent the provisions of atrocities on SCs and STs to be diluted. “I want to assure the nation that the law which has been made stringent by us will not allowed to be affected (by the Supreme Court order)...,” he had said.
The apex court had in its verdict laid down new guidelines for police officers on how to ensure that innocent people, especially public officials, are protected from false complaints under the Act. In the first week of April, a large number of people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes protested across various states against the Supreme Court order on the Atrocities Act.
In subsequent violence, ten people died and hundreds were injured. The central government has also submitted a review petition before the Supreme Court. The next hearing on the Centre's review petition is scheduled on May 16. Paswan also alleged that original suggestions on safeguards against arrest were made by the Mayawati-led government in Uttar Pradesh in 2007. "If anybody is responsible, it is she," Paswan said of another Dalit leader Mayawati.