Dalit Law To Be Shored Up, But Call To Punish Top Court Judge Still Strong

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice AK Goel had maintained the changes in the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities law were necessary to safeguard the innocent

Dalit Law To Be Shored Up, But Call To Punish Top Court Judge Still Strong

Ram Vilas Paswan wrote to PM Modi, demanding a bill to restore the provisions of the SC/ST Act.

New Delhi:

The government's plan to amend the Dalit atrocity Act has pleased its pro-Dalit leaders. But they are not ready to give up the demand to punish Retired Justice AK Goel, who was part of the Supreme Court bench which delivered the judgment that was seen as diluting the stringent law.

Welcoming the Cabinet decision to amend the law, Union minister Ramdas Athwale said, "We continue to demand the removal of NGT Chairman Retd Justice AK Goel, who delivered the verdict that 'diluted' the SC/ST Act. We will speak to the Prime Minister about it".

Bihar's Lok Janashakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan appealed to Dalit groups to call off their strike on August 9, since "the job is done (the law is being changed)". "The judge who gave that judgment will go," he added.  

The top court bench headed by Justice Goel had maintained the changes in the law were necessary to safeguard the innocent and stop abuse of the law. Its order stopped the immediate arrest of anyone accused under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and made bail possible.

But it had Dalit groups hitting the streets. Violence to enforce an all-India strike to protest against the order had cost nearly a dozen lives on April 2.

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The Dalit groups and their leaders had demanded that Justice AK Goel be removed from the top post of the country's highest environmental court.

It was Mr Paswan who had led a contingent of Dalit lawmakers with a request to the Prime Minister - filing of an appeal to the top court, asking it to review its order.

Last month, he and his son wrote to PM Modi, demanding a bill to restore the provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act in the current session of parliament. In case bringing a bill was not possible, he suggested the government bring an executive order, cutting short the monsoon session.

Yesterday, the cabinet okayed a bill that would make the necessary changes to the law. The bill stipulates that a police officer can register criminal cases under the atrocity law without a preliminary inquiry and arrest people without any approval. It also bars courts from granting protection from arrest to suspects.