Populist politics has won over good sense and experience. Let us assert at the outset the Supreme Court, which in March prescribed a few preliminary cautionary steps before the rigors of the SC/ST(Prevention of Atrocities) Act could be visited upon a suspect was not against the SCs/STs. Such steps as suggested by the court in its order had become necessary to prevent the widespread abuse and misuse of the law by unscrupulous elements in the police and society.
It was akin to the court-directed precautions against the abuse of the anti-dowry laws, though the court by no stretch of imagination could be said to be in favour of dowry-seekers. But the demands of populist politics, and the opportunistic stance of Dalit leaders like Ram Bilas Paswan seem to have obliged the government in the election year to negate the good intended to be done by the SC order. On Wednesday, the Cabinet decided to introduce a Bill in this session to restore key provisions of the SC/ST law which were struck down by the SC bench. Following the above decision, the proposed nation-wide bandh call given by a few Dalit outfits for August 9 was likely to be withdrawn. Misconstruing and misinterpreting the court order for preliminary inquiries before arresting people under the SC/ST Act a number of Dalit leaders had called the SC judges anti-Dalit. Even Paswan, a minister in the Modi Government, had publicly demanded the rollback of the court order through an ordinance. However, now that the government has given in, it is hoped Paswan will not feel the need to resign as a minister and the August 9 Bharat bandh would be called off.