Three BJP states, Tamil Nadu to seek review of SC/ST order
New Delhi: Three BJP-ruled states and Tamil Nadu will move the Supreme Court against its order on the SC/ST Act with the Centre maintaining that state governments are on board in seeking a recall of the verdict, days after violent protests by Dalit groups engulfed several parts of the country.
Following a nudge from the top BJP brass, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh -- all of whom had reportedly taken steps to implement the verdict -- have revoked their decision and decided to join the Centre in filing review pleas.
Official sources also said the Centre is keeping ready an ordinance to annul the order of the court, depending on the outcome of its petition.
The court on March 20 had laid down guidelines to prevent the alleged misuse of the Scheduled Castes and the Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Dalit groups have, however, vehemently protested against the verdict, saying it dilutes the law and will lead to a rise in cases of atrocities against the scheduled castes and tribes. A 'Bharat Bandh' called by them on April 2 had turned violent, leading to deaths of at least 11 persons.
While the Centre has already filed a review plea, a top BJP leader told reporters that the party's central leadership has spoken to the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajsthan, where police chiefs were asked to implement the March 20 order, to keep in abeyance the decision and move the court with their review pleas.
In Raipur, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters that his government is moving the Supreme Court against its order while it has also revoked a police department circular on implementation of the verdict.
"The state government is affected by the judgement. In Chhattisgarh, it is the responsibility of the government to protect the honour of SCs and STs. The state government has always been sensitive towards them and will move the apex court against its order," he said.
Tamil Nadu government also announced that it will move the apex court.
The decision was arrived at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister K Palaniswami with his cabinet colleagues, including his deputy O
Panneerselvam, an official release said.
Opposition parties have used the issue to attack the ruling BJP, which has been assiduously wooing Dalits under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its president Amit Shah.
Indicating that more states will move the apex court, home ministry officials said state governments are with the Centre on the issue of recalling the Supreme Court order.
"The Centre has made it abundantly clear that there should be no dilution of the SC/ST Act. It has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court for recall of its order. As far as states are concerned, they are also on board. They are in touch with the Centre and many of them are taking steps. Some have already announced that they will associate with the Centre," a ministry official said.
Union minister and BJP ally Ram Vilas Paswan, who has emerged as the government's key spokesperson on Dalit issues, told reporters that the government will move the apex court for the repeal of its directions which, he added, have halted the reservation for these communities in promotion.
Paswan, who is a member of a group of ministers constituted for issues involving these communities, said the government is open to bringing an ordinance but will first move the apex court.
His announcement comes close on the heels of the government's decision to file pleas in the apex court against its two orders which, it has argued, would work against the interests of the SCs and the STs.
With several Dalits groups agitating and opposition parties targeting the BJP, the government is keen to flaunt its pro-Dalit credentials as it prepares for a series of polls, including the next Lok Sabha election in 2019, in which votes of the community will be crucial to its fortune.
Paswan said the court has ruled in favour of reservation for SCs and STs in promotion but also introduced several conditions, which have led to non-implementation of quota guidelines.