"I want to assure the house that this government has not diluted the SC/ST Act in any way," said Mr Singh told the lower house amidst the chaos. Assuring the house that the government was committed to protecting Dalits, the minister appealed to all citizens to maintain calm.
On March 20, the Supreme Court had ruled that government servants should not be arrested under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act without prior sanction and private citizens too can be arrested only after an inquiry under the law.
Opposing the verdict, several Dalit groups had called a nationwide strike yesterday in which violent incidents and blockades of roads and rail tracks were reported from several states.
"I wish to inform the House that the Government of India was not party in that case," said Mr Singh, adding that "our government is fully committed to protecting the interest of the SC/ST community".
Last month, delivering its verdict on a petition filed by a Maharashtra government employee challenging the Bombay High Court order refusing to quash the First Information Report (FIR) for his adverse remarks against a scheduled caste employee, the top court had said that the accused would not be arrested automatically based on the FIR.
"There is need to safeguard innocent citizens against false implication and unnecessary arrest," the court had said as it laid down that arrest is not at all mandatory in cases under the SC/ST Act.