PATNA: No power can abolish the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, Union Minister and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan said today.
In the past, the Dalit community had tolerated atrocities without protest, but youths today are conscious and aware of their rights, he said while addressing a meeting of the district presidents and state office-bearers of the LJP and Dalit Sena here.
"The SC/ST Act will continue. It is intact and will remain so. People need not worry as no power can abolish the Act," the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution asserted.
The recent Supreme Court judgment "weakens" the provisions of the SC/SC Act and the youth anger over the matter is "natural", Paswan said.
The apex court's judgment on March 20 sought to protect public servants and private employees from arbitrary arrests under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
A non-public servant can be arrested after approval by a senior superintendent of police, the court had ruled.
The judgment led to widespread protests and outcry across the country, following which the central government moved a review plea on April 3.
The court, however, asserted that "no provisions of the SC/ST Act have been diluted" and refused to keep the verdict in abeyance.
Paswan said that a unanimous resolution, calling for a probe to protect innocent people from implications under the Act, had been passed in 2014 by the standing committee of Social Justice Department of the Union government.
Talking about reservations for Dalits and SC/STs in academic institutes and government offices, Paswan said it is their "legal right".
"Reservation is not something that is given to them as alms.
I would continue to bat for the quota system in judiciary and private sector," the minister told reporters after the meeting.
Asked about liquor prohibition and its effects on people, the minister said that poor and the Dalits have benefitted the most from the ban.
In reply to a query over the possibility of the LJP, Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and Upendra Kushwaha's RLSP forming separate groups of their own, Paswan said the NDA was intact in Bihar.
"There is no need to form any separate group," he asserted.