SC/ST Act order: Centre will seek Supreme Court review
The law ministry on Wednesday cleared the ground for the government to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the apex court’s decision to ban automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases for suspected offences against underprivileged communities.
The law ministry’s advice came hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met a delegation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ministers and members of Parliament who said after the meeting that they had been assured that the BJP-led NDA government would stay at the vanguard of efforts to uplift the Dalits. Opposition members led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi met President Ram Nath Kovind on the same issue.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989, a legislation meant to protect the marginalised communities from abuse and discrimination.
It also held that a court can grant anticipatory bail if it, prima facie ( at first sight), finds the complaint is an abuse of the law, false, motivated and intended to blackmail or harass a person.
The law ministry has advised the ministry of social justice and empowerment, the nodal ministry for executing development measures to benefit marginalised communities, to file the review petition, a law ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Both the BJP and its partners in the NDA and Opposition parties have expressed concerns over the SC’s judgment, cautioning that it would dilute the provisions of the Act. BJP and NDA MPs have said the judgment is likely to hurt the party’s and coalition’s electoral prospects. The Opposition too has stepped up pressure on the government to seek a review of the court order.
Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party ( LJP) and Ramdas Athawale’s Republican Party of India (RPI), both partners of the BJP, have previously announced that they would file review petitions in the apex court.
LJP chief and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who was a member of the delegation that called on Modi, said their concerns were heard by the prime minister. The delegation also raised demands for implementing caste-based quotas in the private sector and reservations for promotions in government jobs, he said.The delegation was led by social justice and empowerment minister Thawar Chand Gehlot . A separate delegation of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes led by Ram Shankar Katheria and Opposition members led by Rahul Gandhi met President Kovind to raise the issue of the apex court’s judgment.
Katheria said he conveyed to the President that the implementation of the SC order would escalate discrimination against the Dalits.
In a memorandum submitted to the President, the Opposition said: “There is great unease and a feeling of insecurity amongst the members of Dalit community and other oppressed classes after the Supreme Court judgement was delivered. If immediate steps are not taken by the government, then, we are afraid, this may turn into something not less than a national disaster”.
Giving details of the meeting, Gandhi told journalists:: “We met the President over the dilution of the SC/ST Act. We gave a representation. Atrocities against Dalits are increasing and the Act is being weakened. The President was quite positive and supportive.”