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Forum seeks inclusion of the Act in Ninth Schedule of the Constitution

Taking strong exception to a recent judgement of the Supreme Court that imposed several restrictions on filing of cases and arrest of persons under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the National Coalition for Strengthening of SC / ST (PoA) Act has urged the Union government to take swift measures to overturn this “dilution of the Act.”

At a press conferenceorganised here on Saturday by the coalition with the support of a number of political parties, Henri Tiphagne, a core group committee member and Executive Director of People’s Watch, said that the Union government must soon file a review petition in the case.

“The Union government, represented by its Additional Solicitor General, failed to present a water-tight case to the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, which partially led to this judgement. This should not happen in the review petition,” he said.

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi president Thol Thirumavalavan said that the Union government must also consider going for an appeal to a larger bench of the Supreme Court.

Importantly, he and Mr. Tiphagne said that the Union government must include the Act in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution so that it gets protection under Article 31-B. This will protect the Act in the future from coming under judicial scrutiny that may dilute it.

Mr. Thirumavalavan said it was unfortunate that the Act, which was lacking effective implementation, had been made ineffective in many ways by the Supreme Court judgement. “The implementation of the original 1989 Act was a failure. After a lot of struggle, amendments were made in 2015, which included some strong provisions. However, even that has not been implemented properly,” he said.

Mr. Tiphagne said the restrictions imposed by the Supreme Court included the need for a preliminary enquiry before filing a case under the Act; obtaining permission from Superintendent of Police for arresting a person and the need for approval from the appointing authority of a government employee if a case was to be registered against the employee.

He said that a majority of the political parties, including Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, VCK, Congress, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, Social Democratic Party of India and Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam had voiced their support for the cause.

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