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Demand for including anti-atrocities Act under 9th Schedule to "protect" it from any future judicial review

By Our Representative
Taking a tough stance following the April 2 Bharat bandh, India's top Dalit-Adivasi apex body fighting for the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, or POA Act, and it's 2015 amendment, has demanded that the POA Act be included in the Ninth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, so that it gets the protection in the matter of judicial review.
The top apex body's statement comes close on the heels of the Supreme Court declining to stay it's controversial March 20 ruling, which had said the POA Act was being used to blackmail innocent people. Dalit organizations across the country called for Bharat bandh on April 2 to protest against the ruling. Nine persons, seven of them Dalits, died during the bandh, which turned violent in several parts of India.
While the Government of India filed a review petition in the Supreme Court of India, the National Coalition for Strengthening POA Act (NCSPA), a platform of more than 500 Dalit and Adivasi civil society organisations, regretted, "The highest court of the country denied an urgent hearing of the matter."
NCSPA said, "Later the review petition was admitted after mentioning the urgency before the Chief Justice. The same bench heard the matter around 2 PM on Wednesday, but declined to give a stay on its verdict dated March 20 and further asked the parties to file written submissions to hear the matter after 10 days."
Calling the trend "frightening", NCSPA said, "Article 31-B of the Ninth Schedule will ensure that POA Act 1989 and POA Amendment Act 2015 and its provisions once included cannot be deemed to be void, or ever to have become void, on the ground that such Act or its provisions are inconsistent with the Constitution."
Under such a situation, said NCSPA, that the Act and its provisions "cannot be curtailed by any judgment or order of any court", adding, "Presently, 284 legislations are included in Ninth Schedule, and these relate to the zamindari abolition, state level land reforms, reservation in educational institutions, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976", and so on.
NCSPA said, it is deeply disappointed the Central and state governments tried to forcefully quell the peaceful protestors all over the country on April 2, adding, "We are anguished that the police personnel used excessive force with the protestors and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the peaceful protesters."
Pointing out that "several protesters were injured and killed in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh", it added, in Uttar Pradesh alone, "448 people were detained". All this suggested the "incapability of the police personnel and lack of sincerity of the central government and judiciary, towards the repressive ruling."
NCSPA underscored, "People at the grassroots and many Dalit and people's organisations are losing confidence and faith in the will and ability of the government and the judiciary in addressing these core and critical issues facing the country", especially when the recent trend shows that "there is an increase in atrocities against Dalits by 5.5% in 2016 (40,801) over 2015 (38,670), and increase in atrocities against Adivasis by 4.7% in 2016 (6,568) over 2015 (6,276)."
Asking the Government of India to "urgently move a reference to the larger bench of the Supreme Court on the judgment dated March 20", NCSPA said, it should seek to "revisit the judgment, rescind the directions, expunge certain observations therein, and present a holistic picture such as the socio-historical background of the Act."

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