Commenting on the dilution of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act after Supreme Court’s ruling, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said that the Bill will be tabled in this parliamentary session and might be amended in ninth schedule – suggesting that the government is planning for an ordinance to keep the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe act “unchanged”.

After much ado across the nation over the Supreme Court’s order for the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the government is finally planning to roll out an ordinance to keep the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe act “unchanged” in case the Supreme Court does not reverse a recent judgment that many Dalits alleged diluted the law safeguarding them – as per two union ministers. Besides this, PM Modi said on Thursday that the Centre will not allow the law to be affected in the least and instead accused Congress of being insincere in its commitment to Dalit rights.

The government’s first priority is to push the amendment Bill through Parliament and then go in for a long-term solution. Speaking to ET, minister for social justice and empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said, “Our priority is to get the SC/ST amendment Bill passed next week in the ongoing monsoon session. The inclusion of the Act in the Ninth Schedule is under consideration”. However, from the very beginning it was clear that the entire issue had less to do with the correctness of the Supreme Court judgment and more to do with the way it was interpreted, and sometimes deliberately misinterpreted.

The judgment had not altered or read down any of the key provisions of the Act. The Court was at pains to emphasise that it was only seeking to protect the innocent against arbitrary arrest and that there should be no denial of relief and compensation to SCs and STs, whose rights should be protected. It is vital that any law that is founded on punishing social ostracisation maintains a fine balance between protecting the rights of the individual to a fair trial and enforcing not only the letter but also the spirit of a legislation that was introduced to protect the dignity of the disadvantaged, who have suffered unspeakably as a result of the abhorrent practice of social discrimination.

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