After Ram Vilas Paswan, another Union Minister has demanded the removal of Justice (retd) A K Goel from the post of National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson.
In a statement on Saturday, Ramdas Athawale, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment and president of the Republican Party of India, said there was resentment among Dalits regarding Justice Goel’s appointment and he should be “immediately removed”.
Justice Goel was one of two judges on a Supreme Court bench — the other being Justice U U Lalit — which, on March 20, laid down stringent safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail and a “preliminary enquiry” before registration of a case under the SC/ ST Act. He was appointed NGT chairperson earlier this month, immediately after his retirement from the Supreme Court.
“The appointment of Justice A K Goel is completely wrong and he should be immediately removed from the post of NGT chairman. Various Dalit MPs have already opposed the appointment,” said Athawale. The Dalit leader from Maharashtra said he would raise the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Athawale was present at the dinner party that LJP chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan hosted last week for the NDA’s SC, ST MPs, where the issue of Goel’s appointment was discussed. Paswan had then said that several Dalit MPs of the NDA “expressed concern” over the “wrong message” sent by the appointment of Justice Goel, saying he is “the judge who ruled against” the SC/ST Act.
Paswan has written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, saying the All India Ambedkar Mahasabha (AIAM), a Dalit rights coalition, has sought removal of Justice Goel from the post.
Paswan’s son and Lok Sabha MP Chirag Paswan, in a separate letter to the Prime Minister, has reiterated these demands. “To prevent a repeat of the April 2 episode (when Dalits called a nationwide protest), the government should immediately dismiss Justice A K Goel from the post of NGT chairman,” he said. Justice Goel’s appointment to the NGT post, he said, had sent out a message to SCs and STs that he was being “rewarded”.
Several SC/ST organisations have called for protests on August 9. The LJP’s Dalit Sena has announced that it will participate in the agitation.