New Delhi: Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s party set the Centre an August 9 deadline to undo the Supreme Court’s “dilution” of the Dalit atrocity law through an ordinance and sack Justice (retd) A.K. Goel, one of the judges who passed the order, as National Green Tribunal chairperson.
Ram Vilas’s son and MP Chirag Paswan said, the Narendra Modi government would face a “massive” and “violent” Dalit protest on August 9, with the Paswans’ Lok Janshakti Party joining in.
A bench headed by Justice Goel had on March 20 ruled against automatic arrests and allowed anticipatory bail under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, angering Dalit groups and MPs across the political spectrum.
Justice Goel’s appointment as NGT head immediately after his retirement early this month added fuel to the fire, prompting charges that the government had “rewarded” him.
Organisations representing Dalits and tribals have joined those of farmers and retired defence personnel in announcing a joint “Bharat Bandh” on August 9.
Earlier, Dalit anger had forced the government to move a review petition against the March 20 judgment, but the near-fortnight delay had resulted in a nationwide shutdown on April 2 that turned violent in several places.
Since it’s not clear when the petition would be heard, Dalit MPs and activists have demanded an ordinance to overrule the judgment.
“The appointment of Justice Goel has hurt the Dalits. They (Dalits) feel the government has rewarded him for the judgment that has taken away the protection given to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled tribes,” Chirag, head of his party’s parliamentary board, said.
He said the Dalits’ patience was running out and that the controversy was giving the Opposition a handle to paint the Modi government as “anti-Dalit”.
Asked what his party would do if the government failed to fulfil the demands, he said: “We’ll cross the bridge when we come to it.”