New Delhi : The Congress on Monday demanded that the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to insulate it from legal challenge.
A bill to amend the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, to overturn the Supreme Court order that laid down certain safeguards in the law to prevent atrocities against people of scheduled castes and tribes, was introduced in Lok Sabha on Friday.
Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, addressing the media at Parliament House, said the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018, has been introduced in Parliament by the government after “considerable delay” and under “pressure” from various quarters.
“The Congress party demands that the Act should be brought under Schedule IX so that it cannot be challenged in courts.
“We also demand that all the cases registered on 2nd, 3rd April for participating in the agitation should be withdrawn and all the people who suffered during the agitation should be duly compensated,” Kharge said.
He alleged that the bill has been introduced keeping in view the assembly elections in 3-4 states in the next 7-8 months.
The people in their own party might have raised this matter directly or indirectly and to avoid the recurrence of incidents of April 2-3 Dalit protests, they are going to get this bill passed, Kharge said, adding that the Congress was supporting the bill.
The Congress party had been making concerted efforts to end this centuries-old malpractice of atrocities against SC/STs, he asserted.
Kharge listed various steps taken by the various Congress governments over the years to make the SC/ST law stringent.
He said that a “few people are claiming” that after the Modi government has come to power, this SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Bill has been introduced, “but this is an absolute fact that they have acted under the pressure only”.
During the last four years, crime against SC/ST has increased by 45 per cent, he claimed.
“The government is still sleeping on this issue. When we raise such issues, they ask us as to what we have done in 70 years,” Kharge said.
He cited National Crime Records Bureau data to state that every 15 minutes in India, a crime against Dalits is committed.
Kharge asserted that the absence of adequate laws emboldens people to commit crimes.
Dalit groups had been asking the government to overturn the Supreme Court ruling of March 20, saying it had “diluted” and rendered “toothless” the law against atrocities faced by the weakest sections of the society by putting additional safeguards against arrest of the accused.
The bill introduced by the government rules out any provision for an anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs, notwithstanding any court order, while it also provides that no preliminary inquiry will be required for registering a criminal case and an arrest under this law would not be subject to any approval.
In 2015, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the rising atrocities against Dalits, when the NDA let the ordinance, that would have strengthened the 1989 SC/ST Act, to lapse, Kharge said.
She questioned Modi about the lapsing of the ordinance which the Congress had brought in 2014 during the Manmohan Singh government, he said.
Kharge also attacked the government over its alleged inaction on job creation and “failure” to fill up the backlog vacancies reserved for SCs, STs and OBCs.
The introduction of the amendment bill in Parliament is being seen as a move by the BJP to reach out to Dalits, days ahead of their proposed August 9 nationwide protest demanding restoration of the provisions of the law,