GoI aims to restore original SC-ST Act with three new clauses ahead of ‘Bharat Bandh’

Government of India has decided to restore the original provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 by introducing a bill, owing to increased pressure from Dalit leaders of ruling and opposing parties. The Act had earlier been struck down in March ruling by the Supreme Court.

The Union Cabinet had given its nod to the Amendment Bill and the government would try to introduce it in Parliament during the ongoing session, Food Minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The decision comes days before a planned ‘Bharat Bandh’ by Dalit groups on August 9.

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The Amendment Bill will contain three new clauses after Section 18 of the original Act. The first stipulates that for the purposes of the Act, “preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person.” The second stipulates that the arrest of a person accused of having committed an offence under the Act would not require any approval, while the third stipulates that the provisions of Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure — which deals with anticipatory bail — shall not apply to a case under this Act, “notwithstanding any judgment or order of any Court.”

The provisions of the Bill were announced publicly by Mr. Paswan, whose party had given the ultimatum to the government for restoring the provisions by August 9. MPs from the Dalit and tribal communities reportedly backed the demand, with Mr. Paswan calling it a “historic decision” and “a slap in the face of everyone who has been criticising the Modi government as being anti-Dalit.”

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Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad declined to share details of the decision in the official post-Cabinet media briefing, citing the need to first inform Parliament. “This government is ready to do whatever is needed for the betterment of Dalits and Adivasis,” he said.

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