WITH THE Dalit unrest across the country triggering concern in the party, the three BJP-ruled states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — which had earlier instructed police chiefs to implement the Supreme Court’s order that forbids arrest under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act without prior sanction — revoked their decision on Tuesday, following instructions from the party leadership.
The BJP leadership is also learnt to have instructed the three state governments to file review petitions in the apex court.
The directive is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public assurance that the Centre would not allow the law to be affected, party sources said. Although the central government filed a review petition on April 2, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday that the three states had directed their police to strictly implement the Supreme Court’s March 20 order, which, Dalits say, dilutes the law.
Home Ministry officials said today that the state governments were “on board” with the Centre on the issue. “The Centre has made it abundantly clear that there should be no dilution of the SC/ST Act. It has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court for recall of its order. As far as states are concerned, they are also on board. They are in touch with the Centre and many of them are taking steps. Some have already announced that they will associate with the Centre,” said a ministry official.
Another official said some states had said that they would file petitions in the Supreme Court, challenging its order on the SC/ST Act. The Supreme Court’s March 20 order had triggered widespread protests by various Dalit groups across the country.
Announcing suspension of the order, Chief Minister Raman Singh said the state would file a review petition in the Supreme Court. “In this context, an order had been issued by the PHQ. That order stands suspended with immediate effect. And because the state government is affected by this decision, and because in Chhattisgarh the protection of the rights of SCs/ STs and the protection of their respect is the responsibility of the government, and the government has always been sensitive that no such step should be taken. On this subject, the state government, against this decision, will file a petition in the Supreme Court. What the Centre has done in the Supreme Court, even the state government will do… Till then, these orders that have been issued have been suspended,” he said on Tuesday.
T S Singhdeo, Congress Leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, said this was “another example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing”. “When the Centre has openly said that it could bring an ordinance, what was the hurry to take the decision in the first place, especially concerning social issues like this,” he said.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said her government supports the review petition filed by the central government. “The Government of India has filed a review petition on the SC/ST judgment and the state government fully supports it. It has come to my notice that without my knowledge, some officials of the state government have issued a circular which has created confusion,” she said in a statement.
Stating that the order had been withdrawn, she said: “I have given directions that no such confusion should be created. In this context, I have directed the home minister and police headquarters that a letter be released with essential clarification. The state government is committed to the protection of SC/ST rights.”
A press release from the Rajasthan Home Department said the chief minister has ordered that the state government be a party in the review petition of the central government.
In Madhya Pradesh, where seven persons were killed during the Bharat Bandh called by Dalit groups on April 2, the government on Tuesday withdrew the earlier circular asking police to follow the Supreme Court order. State Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said the police should act according to the review petition filed by the central government.
Meanwhile, the CPM-led government in Kerala has filed a separate review petition against the Supreme Court’s order.
The BJP has faced criticism over the central government’s delay in filing a review petition. According to sources, a group of BJP Dalit leaders met party chief Amit Shah last week to apprise him of the “deepening anguish” in the community and to persuade the party to “take measures that would regain the confidence of the community in the BJP.”
— With inputs from Raipur, Jaipur, Bhopal