The Opposition parties had also accused the government of failing to protect the rights of dalits.
New Delhi: In a significant step towards reaching out to dalits, the government has begun inter-ministerial consultations to bring in an ordinance to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that put safeguards on the arrest of those accused of committing atrocities on SCs and STs, official sources were quoted as saying by news agencies.
This comes barely a month after dalit groups had held all-India protests against the alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act through the Supreme Court’s March 20 ruling. The timing of the decision is interesting as the government is mindful of the fact that Lok Sabha polls are less than a year away. Therefore, in order to soothe the sentiments of dalits, it has begun to pave the way for the ordinance.
The protests held on April 2 had turned violent at several places across the country, leaving many people dead. The Opposition parties had also accused the government of failing to protect the rights of dalits.
A draft is ready with the social justice ministry and it is likely to be placed before the Union Cabinet in the coming days if the government’s review plea before the Supreme Court fails to yield a favourable ruling. “The next hearing is on May 16 and much would depend on that,” said a senior official in the social justice and empowerment ministry.
Another government official said there was no clarity yet on the exact date for the proposal to be placed before the Cabinet for its approval. “But a Cabinet note detailing the reason for bringing the ordinance has been circulated to all ministries for consultations,” he added.
The proposed ordinance would make it clear that despite any judgment or any other law in force, the provisions of the act shall remain valid. “Once promulgated, this will mean the ordinance would overturn the SC order,” a law ministry official explained.
Sources aware of deliberations within the government at different levels said promulgating an ordinance to restore the original provisions would help calm tempers.
Introducing a bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament due in July to amend the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 to overturn the Supreme Court order is the second option before the government, the sources said. Recently, the Supreme Court refused to stay its March 20 order diluting certain provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
While hearing observations by attorney-general K.K. Venugopal on a review petition filed by the Centre, the court had said it was not against the act but the innocent should not be punished.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last month said that his government would not let any dilution in the law aimed at preventing atrocities on SCs and STs. In its March 20 order, the Supreme Court had laid down new guidelines for police officers on how to ensure that innocent people, specially public officials, are protected from false complaints under the law.