NEW DELHI: The LJP, a BJP ally, today filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its order relaxing stringent provisions of a law dealing with cases of atrocities against Dalits, even as a top Union minister also favoured a similar stand from the government.
Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan told reporters that his party had filed a review plea as the apex court's order had rendered the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act "toothless" and caused a lot of anger among these communities.
Paswan said it was necessary that the original provisions of the law, which he described as a weapon for Dalits and tribals against atrocities, be restored.
While the Narendra Modi-led government has not taken a categorical stand yet on whether it would seek a review of its order from the apex court, Dalits leaders, including many from the ruling BJP, have spoken in its favour.
Udit Raj, a Dalit MP of the BJP, had said that the order, if not reviewed, can harm his party politically at a time it has been making a concerted bid to woo Dalits, who are spread across the country and will play a crucial role to its electoral fortunes.
In a first clear indication of the emerging view within the government, Social Justice Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot wrote to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad favouring a review plea against the verdict.
He said there were concerns that the order will make the law "ineffective" and adversely impact the dispensation of justice to Dalits and tribals.
Seeking a legal opinion on the issue, Gehlot, in his note to Prasad, said, "It is felt that the Supreme Court order may make the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act ineffective and adversely impact the dispensation of justice system. In my opinion it would be right to file a review petition against the verdict."
However, it was the LJP, a party which draws its base from Dalits in Bihar, which made a political point by filing a review plea in the apex court.
Paswan said his party had stated last week that it will file a review plea if there was a delay from the government, suggesting that the Centre should have filed a petition by now.
He said he had has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The apex court has sought prior inquiry before an accused in the case is arrested and this has made the law very weak, his letter said.
There is a widespread concern among Dalits and tribals that the new provisions will lead to a rise in the cases of atrocities against them due to the absence of its stringent measures, which acted as a deterrent for the accused, it said.
"We are worried as the order has weakened the law which has been the main protector of Dalits. It is necessary to ensure that it remains strong. We have also demanded that the government should go to the apex court at the earliest seeking a review of its order," he told reporters.
Paswan, who is the chairperson of his party's parliamentary board, said the LJP has been receiving a number of memorandums from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes against the court's order.
The court in its order had expressed concern over the misuse of the act and said that government servants should not be arrested without prior sanction and private citizens too could be arrested only after an inquiry.
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) have also conveyed their views and demanded a review of the verdict, saying the original Act, as it existed before the SC verdict, should be restored.