Mumbai: Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said that an ordinance will be brought in if the Supreme Court does not modify the dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. "The Supreme Court order has diluted key provisions of the Act and that is not right," he said.
In its order in March, the Supreme Court had ruled that there can be no immediate arrests for crimes against Dalits even after a case is registered. Acknowledging large-scale misuse of the provisions of the SC/ST Act, the court said the accused were entitled to anticipatory bail.
"The allowance of anticipatory bail for such offences is not right. The attorney general has argued the government's case and we hope the Supreme Court will reconsider its stand," Mr Paswan told NDTV.
The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said in case the Supreme Court doesn't change its mind, "we will bring in an ordinance".
An ordinance, or an executive order, is a transitory law promulgated by the President of India on the recommendation of the union cabinet.
The top court ruling had led to massive protests by Dalit groups prompting the centre to demand that the order be suspended. Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the community that his government will not let the law to prevent atrocities on SCs and STs to be diluted.
In order to woo agitating Dalits, the ruling BJP asked its lawmakers, including ministers at the centre and states, to spend at least a night in villages where there are 50 per cent or more Dalits.
Mr Paswan, on the BJP's outreach programme, said, "You can eat wherever you like but if by eating at their home you feel you are doing a favour then it is wrong. This facade of sympathy is wrong and suggesting that by eating at Dalit homes untouchability will disappear is wrong. We should focus on basic problems instead of eating at their homes."
Even Dalit leaders feel that merely having food at homes of Dalits is not enough as there is an urgent need to address their aspirations and grievances.
Udit Raj, BJP lawmaker and the party's Dalit face, said the community wants respect, jobs, rights and equality, "but attempts are being made to satisfy them by having food, night stay and tea with them".
"Scheduled castes and minorities can't be ignored. The government is working for scheduled castes but there is a protest against the government. This perception needs to be addressed. The last budget was great for farmers but the message is not reaching the farmers," Mr Paswan said.
Talking about the BJP allies being unhappy with the ruling party, he said, "We are in the alliance with our self-respect intact. If anyone's is unhappy about their self-respect they should leave. But the Shiv Sena wants to have the cake and eat it too. They have been together since the beginning. They are still in the alliance but write against the BJP every day in the Saamna (the Sena's mouthpiece). When we proposed Modi's candidature for 2019 two years ago, Uddhav Thackeray was present."
The Lok Janshakti Party chief added, "Chandrababu Naidu wants a special status for Andhra Pradesh. Even Bihar has been asking for it for a long time. The government said we will give you the same amount of money through a special package. But those who have to leave are looking for reasons to leave," Mr Paswan added.