Dalit leader and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan Monday said several Dalit MPs of the NDA have “expressed concern” over the “wrong message” sent by the appointment of Justice A K Goel as National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairman, saying he is “the judge who ruled against” the SC/ST Act.
Paswan’s son and Lok Sabha member Chirag Paswan said as leader of the LJP, he would ask the government to remove Justice Goel from the post.
Several SC/ST organisations, Chirag Paswan said, have threatened a stir on August 9 on the SC/ST Act issue. He said the government should table a Bill in Parliament to bring back the Act in its original form, or should conclude the session on August 7, so that an Ordinance could be issued on August 8 and a major protest prevented on August 9.
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 Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The judges noted that there had been “instances of abuse” of the Act by “vested interests” for political or personal reasons. This ruling angered the Dalits who felt it was a dilution of the special law meant for their safety. On July 6, Justice Goel retired from the Supreme Court and was appointed NGT chairman that very day by the government. In his farewell speech, he had defended the March 20 ruling, saying what if a “person is falsely accused, what is the forum… should an innocent be allowed to be arrested”.
On Monday, after Dalit MPs of the NDA met at his house, Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters: “Kaafi sadasyon ne mamla uthaya ki jis judge ne yeh judgment diya dono ke khilaf mei… Dalit Act ke sambandh mei aur uske baad UGC ke sambandh mei… Unko tribunal ka chairman bana diya gaya hai… To uss par bhi logon ne chinta vyakt kiya ki is se galat sandesh jata hai (Several members raised the issue of the judge who ruled against the Dalit Act and the UGC… he has been made chairman of the tribunal… people expressed concern that this sends a wrong message).”
He said a delegation of MPs will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apprise him on the issues discussed at the meeting Monday.
His son and LJP parliamentary board chairperson Chirag said “the anger in society has increased more because Justice Goel, who had given that verdict and made the Act toothless, has been appointed chairman of NGT. We have objection to this. He should be removed from the post.”
“As LJP leader I will demand that the government remove him from the post,” he said.