"Comprehensive" Petition Filed On Dalit Issue, Says Law Minister

Dalit groups pushed to enforce a Bharat Bandh today as the government filed a review petition in top court against its earlier order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

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Ravi Shankar Prasad said the issue of discrimination against Dalits is becoming "political"


New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Top court had changed two key provisions of anti-atrocities law
  2. Dalits accused government of failing to highlight atrocities on them
  3. Congress has accused the centre of failing to protect the Dalits
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad sought to reassure the Dalits today, saying the government has filed a "comprehensive" petition in the Supreme Court regarding an order that is at the heart of the protests sweeping the country that have led to five deaths. The Dalits have pushed ahead with the day-long Bharat Bandh as government filed the petition, asking the top court for a re-look into the order which allegedly weakened a stringent law meant to protect the community.

"We do not agree with the Supreme Court order. Senior lawyers will argue (the case) with all authority," the minister said today. Sources said Attorney General KK Venugopal will request the Supreme Court tomorrow for an early hearing of the petition.

Mr Prasad's cabinet colleague Ram Vilas Paswan has already criticised the decision to hold a strike, saying, "There had never been such a quick step by the government on any issue. Why are parties playing politics?"

Last week, the top court held that the anti-atrocities law was being misused and changed two key provisions of the law, stopping the immediate arrest an accused and introducing a provision for bail.
The Dalits have accused the Centre of failing to highlight the high rate of atrocities on the community and the abysmally low rate of conviction in court.

The issue of discrimination against Dalits is being politicised, Mr Prasad said, indicating that the Congress support to the community is responsible for the escalation of the protests.

In the wake of the recent incidents of attacks by cow vigilantes, the Congress has repeatedly accused the BJP-led central government of failing to protect the Dalits .

Today, senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said despite the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, there were atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Tribes and it increased after the NDA came to power. "The country was introduced to lynchings, but the government took no solid step... Minorities, weaker sections were targeted especially".

"Our accusation is that the Central Government did not make any efforts to ensure that the act is not diluted," Mr Azad added.

The NDA government, Mr Prasad said, "supports the Dalits". The government, he said, "has asked a Dalit to become the President of India... The BJP has largest number of lawmakers who belong to the Scheduled castes and tribes".


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