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Mudda panellists discuss step taken by centre under pressure from alliance partners that include Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Ramdas Athawale’s RPI

The Union Cabinet has approved an amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Parliament on Wednesday, to restore the original provisions of the Act. The amendment if passed will nullify the Supreme Court judgment on March 20 that prevented immediate arrest of an accused under this Act. The judgment stated that arrests could only be made after a preliminary enquiry by the probing agency or the police.

Soon after the judgment various Dalit groups had launched a nationwide agitation. Reports state that the step was taken by the Centre under pressure from alliance partners that included Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Ramdas Athawale’s RPI.

The political pressure on the government increased after Justice AK Goel (retired), who was on the Supreme Court bench that pronounced the judgment, was appointed chairman of the National Green Tribunal.

Thursday’s edition of Mudda, APN’s daily current affairs show, discussed the issue. Moderated by Anant Tyagi the guests were BJP spokesperson Sanjay Thakur, LJP spokesperson Arvind Vajpayee, expert on Dalit matters Awadhesh Verma, former chairman of UP Law Commission Justice AN Mittal, Congress spokesperson Hilal Naqvi and APN consulting editor Govind Pant Raju.

Sanjay Thakur said that the Centre’s step was not because of any political pressure. He said: “It was clear from the start that if a case has been filed then a preliminary inquiry should be undertaken by the authorities. If the Dalits are oppressed in this country, it is the government’s duty to protect them. In doing so if the government takes a step against the Supreme Court, what is wrong in that?”

Hilal Naqvi said that the government’s actions clearly state that the Justice Goel’s judgment was wrong. He said: “The judgment was against the SC/ST. The Congress had brought in the provision of immediate arrest. The Supreme Court tried to dilute it and now BJP is restoring that. The BJP has accepted that the judgment was against the Dalits.”

Verma said that though there have been about 10 percent cases where the Act was misused the reality is different. He explained: “In most of the cases the Dalits do not get justice. Even if they file a case successfully they are later pressured by various goons to withdraw their case. Dalits find it hard to get justice in this country. But at the same time, I want to tell the BJP that Dalits have other core issues too which have never been discussed by any government. I urge them to take them up, too.”

AN Mittal said that the judgment did not dilute the Act. He explained: “It was just to prevent the misuse of the Act. It just stated that no arrests should be made without a preliminary inquiry. Some political parties spread wrong information that it was being diluted. I do not hesitate to say that there are certain laws where there is no visible evidence for arrests. When an FIR is filed, the investigating officer has to carry out an enquiry and till they get any proof no arrests are made. I think the judgment was the right.”

Vajpayee said there was complete dilution of the Act and the government restored the Act.

Raju said: “This is vote bank politics. This is a sudden move by the government which clearly shows that this is nothing but politics.”

—Compiled by Usha Rani Das

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