Government must ensure SC/ST Act is adhered to in letter and spirit, says former MP Bhalchandra Mungekar

Praising the cabinet’s decision to approve the amendments to the Act, former MP and expert on Dalit issues Bhalchandra Mungekar said all political parties should ensure the bill wins passage without any hindrance in Parliament.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2018 23:26 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bhalchandra Mungekar,SC/ST Act,Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
Members stand for the national anthem during a function to confer Outstanding Parliamentarian Awards, at the Central Hall of Parliament House, in New Delhi on Wednesday, Aug 1, 2018. (PTI)

The Union cabinet’s decision to introduce a bill to reinstate the original provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is a necessary step to restore the effectiveness of the law, Dalit commentators said . But a section of them added the decision seemed politically expedient and the government must ensure the provisions of the Act are implemented on the ground.

Praising the cabinet’s decision to approve the amendments to the Act, former MP and expert on Dalit issues Bhalchandra Mungekar said all political parties should ensure the bill wins passage without any hindrance in Parliament.

“The judgment by the Supreme Court to bar automatic arrest killed the spirit of the act. It was the provision of immediate arrest that gave the Act teeth. This anomaly (the SC decision) had to be rectified and I am glad that the cabinet has approved the amendments. But it is now important that the bill when tabled in Parliament is passed unanimously,” he said.

Mungekar also said the government must ensure that the act, whenever it’s passed after amendments, is followed in “letter and spirit”. “The attacks on Dalits and women are giving the whole country a bad name,” he said.

The Supreme Court’s March 20 order banned automatic arrests and first information reports (FIRs) under the Act and allowed anticipatory bail if no prima facie case was made out or where the complaint was found to be prima facie mala fide on judicial scrutiny. The verdict sparked protests by Dalits groups. The union government asserted it would challenge the SC’s decision, and filed a review petition, Dalit groups organised a country-wide Bharat Bandh on April 2 that left at least nine people dead across three states.

Writer and Dalit ideologue Chandra Bhan Prasad said the government’s decision to make amends seemed to stem from the fear of having to face more protests from Dalit organisations that had threatened to rally against the changes announced in the Act by the apex court.

“Any step taken under duress lacks commitment, like this cabinet decision on the Dalit Act, hence, the intent is suspect. Nevertheless, I welcome this development,” he said.

Writer and political commentator Anand Teltumbde said the government’s decision seemed politically expedient and not one that emerged from being sensitive to the concerns of the SCs and STs. “It seems the government is concerned by the growing unrest among SCs and STs. This seems like a political ploy to recover some lost ground on the eve of the elections...” Teltumbde said.

First Published: Aug 01, 2018 23:26 IST