SC/ST Atrocities Act: Dalit MPs meet PM Modi, no Central assurance on review petition

Sources in the government said that although Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot has written to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad about a review plea, the matter did not come up for discussions in the two cabinet meetings since March 20.

Written by Liz Mathew , Shalini Nair | New Delhi | Published: March 29, 2018 3:24:08 am
SC/ST Atrocities Act: Dalit MPs meet PM Modi, no Central assurance on review petition Opposition parties led by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi met President Ram Nath Kovind and raised concerns on dilution of the SC/ST Act. Leaders of parties including BSP, NCP, CPM, SP, DMK handed a memorandum to Kovind. (Amit Mehra)

Despite representations and appeals from Dalit MPs and Opposition parties for the government’s intervention on the Supreme Court order on Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Atrocities (Prevention) Act, the BJP government at the Centre has made no commitment to file a review petition against the March 20 ruling. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told a delegation of Dalit MPs that the NDA government would “continue its welfare initiatives” taken for SC/ST communities.

“It was a good and elaborate discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Supreme Court judgment. Modiji heard our concerns,” Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who was part of the delegation that met the PM, said.
RPI(A) leader and MoS for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale said that he presented the PM with a memorandum on behalf of RPI(A) in addition to asking for a review petition by the Union government. “The PM said the government is in the process of filing a review petition once the Law Ministry finishes studying the matter. Our government is doing the most work for welfare of Dalits, unlike other governments who were all talk,” he said.

Paswan and Athawale are pressing for a review of the apex court verdict. Paswan’s LJP has filed a review plea in the Supreme Court. The BJP has more than three dozen SC MPs.

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However, Udit Raj, a BJP Lok Sabha MP, said the government had not made any commitment that it would file a review petition in the apex court. “The Prime Minister said the Law Ministry is studying the judgment. After examining the order, it will reach a conclusion and that will be announced,” he told The Indian Express. “The PM added that the government would continue working for welfare of Dalit communities.”

Sources in the government said that although Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot has written to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad about a review plea, the matter did not come up for discussions in the two cabinet meetings since March 20.

Meanwhile, members of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes led by Ram Shankar Katheria met President Ram Nath Kovind seeking his intervention in pushing the government to file for review of the order. “Looking at the number and nature of cases coming to the Commission and the action taken on them (by local authorities), we know that such an order would aggravate problems faced by the Dalit community and it will be injustice to them,” Katheria told The Indian Express. “The President said he would talk to the government.”

The commission has listed recent developments that would go against the interests of SC communities, including the UGC order to calculate reserved posts in teaching jobs by considering a department as a unit instead of a university. “Dilution of provisions of this special Act is an aspect that needs to be strongly countered. There will consequential delays in implementation of the Act as well as the victims/dependents not getting the help and financial compensation as laid down in the Rules framed under the Act,” the memorandum submitted to the President said.

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Athawale told The Indian Express that he met Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis Monday to discuss the matter of the state government filing a review petition in the apex court in the Subhash Mahajan versus The State of Maharashtra case. “The CM agreed to the State of Maharashtra filing a review petition. It is important that both the Union and Maharashtra governments take a stand that offences under Atrocity Act remain non-bailable and also dispel the misconception that a majority of cases under the Act are false and misused,” he said.

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