Faced with mounting criticism from the Opposition and several social groups over a delay in filing a review petition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday assured that his government “would not allow dilution” of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
“Government won’t allow dilution of law to prevent atrocities on Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. Special courts are being formed for the urgent hearing of cases involving torture on SC/ST. The government has also decided to set up a commission for sub-categorization of backward castes,” the PM said.
“When the honourable Supreme Court delivered its verdict on March 20, it took us only 12 days to file the review petition,” he said. The PM was speaking at the inauguration of Amebedkar Memorial in New Delhi.
Modi’s remarks come a day after the Centre told the Supreme Court that its March 20 judgment, which forbids arrest without prior permission for an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, amounted to “judicial legislation” and had caused anger, unease and sense of disharmony in the country. The Supreme Court has seized of the Centre’s review petition on the alleged dilution of the Act.
Modi said it was his government which had brought about the stringent provisions in the SC/ST Act in 2015. “When our government made amendment in the Dalit law, the provision against anticipatory bail to the accused was kept intact. The amount of compensation to the victim was also raised. To assure that the law is followed, our government spent more than the previous government,” he said.
Accusing the Congress of spreading “lies” to create fissures, Modi said: “Do not get trapped by the Congress and those parties who have surrendered to the Congress culture…Congress insulted Ambedkar when he was alive and is doing so even after his death. I challenge Congress party to tell me about one work they have done for Dr Ambedkar. They have no answers. Congress is all about dynasty politics. If I was not born in a poor and backward class family, I would have never understood Dr Ambedkar.”
The PM also accused the Congress under former prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru of insulting Ambedkar, Modi said the Dalit icon was not nominated in any committee under Nehru and said the party had even fielded candidates to defeat Babasaheb when he tried to contest an election in 1952 and by-election in 1953. “Nehru himself campaigned in those seats to make sure that Babasaheb lost. Later, it was with the help of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee that Babasaheb came to Rajya Sabha,” Modi said.
Accusing the Congress of “creating obstacles” in the passage of a Bill to grant constitutional status to the OBC Commission by not allowing Parliament to function, Modi said: “At times they spread rumours that reservation is being scrapped. At times it relates to ending the law to prevent atrocities on the SCs and the STs… They never believed in Ambedkar’s ideology… They use his name out of compulsion to gain votes.”
He said Ambedkar’s portrait was denied a spot in the Central Hall of Parliament citing lack of space. “Though leaders such as Rajiv Gandhi were honoured with Bharat Ratna, Ambedkar got it when VP Singh was the Prime Minister and BJP was a constituent… He was not a BJP member… (but) Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani pushed for a Bharat Ratna award for him,” Modi said.