While the Centre seeks recall of the Supreme Court’s March 20 order that forbids arrest under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act without prior sanction, at least three BJP-ruled states have already directed their police to strictly implement the order which, Dalits say, dilutes the law.
Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have issued formal orders, instructing police chiefs to strictly implement the Supreme Court order. Himachal Pradesh has circulated the order informally among police officers while Haryana has sought legal advice.
In Congress-ruled Punjab, the state welfare department, official sources said, has put up the order-related file before Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who has not yet got back. On April 1, a statement from the CM office had said the state government was committed to the welfare of Scheduled Castes and the Punjab assembly had sought the Centre’s intervention to legally pursue the case.
In poll-bound Karnataka, also ruled by the Congress, the order has been circulated informally. In Left-ruled Kerala, the only state to have challenged the order, the police chief has simply forwarded the order. In West Bengal, ruled by the Trinamool Congress, ADG CID Sanjay Mukherjee said: “I can only comment on the order once I see it.”
Chhattisgarh police put out a circular on April 6, eight days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by Chief Minister Raman Singh, told crowds at the launch of Ayushman Bharat in Bijapur that “it is the responsibility of the government to be concerned about your rights (aapke haqon ki chinta karna sarkar ka dayitva hai)”.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that the Centre, which has approached the Supreme Court with a review petition, has also made it known that state governments “should not do anything by which the SC/ST Act is weakened or whittled down”.
Addressing a press conference Monday, Congress leader P L Punia said the Prime Minister himself had assured that he would not allow dilution of the Act. “The BJP government in Chhattisgarh has gone ahead and started implementation of the diluted version of the Act… This is a clear case of the BJP’s doublespeak, duplicity and deceit,” he said.
This is what the state police chiefs had to say:
Additional Director General of Police R K Vij, who issued the circular to all SPs, declined comment Monday after the Congress put out the state police circular. But a senior police officer said: “Once the Supreme Court issues directives, it is routine practice for the administration to issue orders to the lower rank and file to apprise them of what the Supreme Court has said. This has happened in changes of law of juvenile justice, rape and so on. The police are duty-bound to follow Supreme Court directives. If the Supreme Court were to review the changes, then of course the police would do so too.”
ADGP (Scheduled Castes) Pragya Richa Shrivastava informed officials in charge of ranges, districts, SC/ST police stations and government railway police about the Supreme Court order and asked them to follow the guidelines. A senior officer said there was no need to notify guidelines because once the order was passed, it had become law. The police headquarters was forced to issue a circular because a case was reported from Damoh district after the Supreme Court order. Unaware of the new order, the local police followed the existing guidelines but the accused cited the new guidelines.
M L Lather, ADGP (Civil Rights), said that a few days after the Supreme Court order, his office issued a circular to all district police and commissionerates for implementation of the new guidelines on SC/ST law cases.
DGP B S Sandhu said: “Although there is a Supreme Court verdict on the case, the Centre has also filed a review petition. Thus, I have forwarded the issue to ACS (Home), requesting him to seek legal opinion on the matter and advise us accordingly. So far, we have not implemented any change. As per standard practice, we do conduct a thorough probe in all such cases before arresting any accused.”
DGP S R Mardi said: “I have only circulated the Supreme Court order on our official WhatsApp group of senior police officers. Besides that, no formal instructions have been issued.”— With ENS inputs