It’s an emergency-like situation in the country with thousands of people out on the road, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday while seeking a review of its order on the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Appearing on behalf of the Centre, Attorney General of India KK Venugopal sought a review of the Supreme Court judgement, claiming poor law and order situation across the country following violent protests by Dalit organisations.

Venugopal told the apex court that several people have died during the Bharat Bandh and violent protests on Monday and property worth thousands of crores has been destroyed.

The Amicus Curiae, Amrendra Sharan, however, opposed the Attorney General’s contention saying law and order is the responsibility of the government.

Sharan argued that the Supreme Court’s judgement should not be stayed on the ground that law and order has deteriorated in several parts of the country.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra then agreed to constitute the original bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit at 2 pm to hear the Centre’s review plea.

The matter is expected to come up for hearing at 2 pm today.

Meanwhile, speaking on the issue, Union Minister Ananth Kumar said that the government is committed towards rights of Dalits and their safety.

”Wherever Congress is in power, they are responsible for inciting people and spreading violence,” he said.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also made a statement on the ongoing Dalit protest across the country and appealed for calm.

The Centre’s decision to move the top court came in the wake of violent protests by several Dalit outfits across the country against the apex court ruling. At least eleven people have so far died due to the ongoing protest across the country.

Speaking on the issue, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that the government “differs” with the reasoning given by the apex court judgement “virtually redoing the entire architecture of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act”.

The apex court had on Monday declined urgent hearing on a writ petition filed by All India Federation of SC/ST Organisations against the verdict claiming that the entire nation has witnessed large-scale violence during the ‘Bharat Bandh’.

The top court, however, said the plea would be listed and heard in due course.

On Monday, the Dalit protesters had blocked trains, clashed with police and set on fire several vehicles across several states during a nationwide bandh called to protest against the top court verdict.

In a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bonafide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the SC/ST Act, the apex court on March 20 diluted its stringent provisions mandating immediate arrest under the law.

The Union government, in its review petition, had said the verdict has “wide ramification and implication resulting in dilution of the stringent provisions of law enacted under the 1989 enactment.

“It (the verdict) adversely affects a substantial portion of the population of India being the members of SC/ST. It is also contrary to the legislative policy of Parliament as reflected in the Prevention Of Atrocities Act 1989,” the Centre said.

Seeking an open court hearing of the review petition, it said that “oral arguments are essential in the present matter in order to assist the court. Further, it would be in the interest of justice that oral arguments be entertained by this court”.

Justifying the petition, the Centre said that despite various measures to improve the socio-economic conditions of the SCs and STs, they still remained vulnerable.

“They are denied a number of civil rights. They are subjected to various offences, indignities, humiliations and harassments. They have, in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their lives and properties, serious crimes are committed against them for various historical, social and economic reasons,” it said.

The Centre said that the Section 18 of the Act is the backbone as it enforces an inherent deterrence and instills a sense of protection amongst members of SCs and STs and any “dilution thereof would shake the very objective of mechanism to prevent offences of atrocities”.

(With PTI Inputs)

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