Tamil Nadu sees protest against ‘dilution’ of SC/ST Act
Chennai: Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu staged a demonstration in Chennai on Monday to protest against what they call the “dilution” of certain provisions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The agitation, led by opposition leader and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president M.K. Stalin, was held at Valluvar Kottam in the city. The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Congress, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Communist Party of India (CPI), CPM, Dravidar Kazhagam and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi also participated in the protest.
Stalin, who demanded that the SC/ST Act be included under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, observed that the apex court’s order diluting the Act was unacceptable.
VCK, which has a substantial Dalit following, and other organizations that work for the rights of the SC/ST, have been staging demonstrations across the state for over a week. VCK’s president Thol. Thirumavalavan said the centre should make efforts to include the SC/ST Act under the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule, which is beyond judicial review.
Tamil Nadu’s law that provides 69% reservation in the state is under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
However in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that all laws, including those in the Ninth Schedule would be subject to judicial review if they violated the basic structure of the constitution.
On 2 April, the Dalit groups had organized protests across the country after the Supreme Court’s 20 March ruling preventing automatic arrests in cases of atrocities against the SC/ST.
The court had observed that a public servant could be arrested only after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the senior superintendent of police, if considered necessary, for reasons recorded.
The Bharat Bandh on 2 April saw sporadic violence and left 11 people dead. Opposition parties also accused the government of failing to protect Dalit rights.
A day later, the top court refused to keep in abeyance its earlier order preventing automatic arrests on complaints filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Last week, observing that the judgement had diluted the provisions of the act, the Centre in its written statement submitted to the Supreme Court said the case “has caused a lot of commotion in the country and is also creating anger, unease and a sense of disharmony”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asserted that his government will not let the law to prevent atrocities on SCs and STs to be diluted. “I want to assure the nation that the law which has been made stringent by us will not allow to be affected (by the SC order),” he had said.