Several Congress leaders on Wednesday slammed the Modi government for not presenting the full facts before the Supreme Court while an apex court bench ruled that sanction of the appointing authority would be required before arrest or prosecution of the accused under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 in the Supreme Court.
Condemning the silence of the Government on the ruling, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that rights of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were being compromised but the Modi government does not seem unduly bothered.
The case was important enough for the Government to be represented by the Attorney General, he said, but the Government does not seem to have taken the case seriously enough.
Saying that Dalits and tribals continue to suffer physical and verbal abuse despite the Act, the leaders questioned the rationale behind the court’s decision to make prosecution even more difficult.
Admitting that there could be some cases when the provisions of the Act may have been misused by complainants and the police, Surjewala questioned the wisdom of ‘one odd case of misuse’ prompting the apex court to virtually render the Act ineffective.
Kumari Selja, former Union Minister and a prominent Dalit leader from Haryana , alleged that there was a conspiracy to not just dilute the Act but actually to dissolve the Act. Describing the RSS and BJP as anti-Dalit, she recalled how the Act was passed by the Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1989 to protect Dalits and tribals.
The Congress criticism followed the court ruling which clarified that the bar on anticipatory bail to the accused under this Act was not absolute. A bench headed by Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit ruled that preliminary inquiry must be conducted by a DSP rank officer to find out whether allegations are made out and whether there is a prima facie case and if the allegations are frivolous or motivated.
“Innocent citizens are made accused, which is not intended by the legislature. The legislature never intended to use the Atrocities Act as an instrument to blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance,” the Supreme Court bench observed on Tuesday.
Daring the Modi government to clear its stand on the issue, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma demanded a review of the decision by the apex court. “There were several decisions that were taken for the empowerment of the SC/STs. We are saddened by the decision that the law now doesn’t agree to protect SC/STs. If this decision is not thought through again, it would raise many more questions,” he said.