A hotbed of protests

Megha Choudhary
Sunday, 8 April 2018

Violent protests are in vogue and now even SC judgements could be an excuse

It seems our countrymen have lost respect for the Supreme Court (SC) and it has nowadays become a fashion to file writ petitions against any ruling. And if that doesn’t work, then there is a tried and tested method of blackmailing the entire nation by creating arson in the name of a ‘bandh’.

It seems that the people have forgotten the basic fundamentals of the Constitution, which provide the right to justice, equality, liberty and fraternity to every citizen. But caste-based agitations and protests called by some fringe groups and equally supported by different political parties are weakening the entire democratic set-up of the country. People with some vested interest jump into the protest and create arson and it is the common people who pay for such violence.

Burning vehicles, damaging public transport, blocking national highways, trains, pelting stones – all these present a horrifying picture before the eyes. In January this year, during a protest against controversial film Padmavati, protesters attacked a school bus with students on board in Gurgaon. What was the fault of the little children?

Patel agitation, Jat agitation, Maratha rally, protest against the screening of a controversial movie and the latest was the Dalit protest, which killed 9 people and injured over 100. The country has become a hotbed of protests.

On April 2, Dalit groups called for a protest against the Apex Court’s ruling on ‘diluting certain provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act’ on March 20. Though the Centre filed a review petition in the SC and has said that it has no role in the SC verdict, it was too late to justify its stand as by then the lives were lost and the damage was done.

On April 3, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in the Lok Sabha that there has been no dilution in the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act by the Centre. Earlier on Monday, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was not a party to the Supreme Court decision on the SC/ST Act and has filed a comprehensive review petition in the matter.

Taking cognisance of the matter, the Supreme Court on April 3 said it will consider the Centre’s review petition but refused to stay its order on the SC/ST Act. It further stated that “people who are agitating may not have read the judgement properly and must have been misled by people with vested interests”. “We have not diluted any provision of the SC/ST Act, but only safeguarded the interests of the innocents from being arrested,” said a Bench comprising Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit. It also warned against politicising the issue.

The opposition did not miss the opportunity to gain political mileage out of the situation and several top leaders including Rahul Gandhi were quick to attack Prime Minister Modi on the issue. Giving a political twist to any issue, whether its related to any judgement given by the honourable Supreme Court, or a matter of grave concern like CBSE paper leak, will only create animosity among people. People with vested interests and anti-social elements do not need any invitation to disturb social harmony.

It is a known fact that social media plays an important role in fueling the violence with ‘hate messages’ being circulated on WhatsApp. After the Dalit protest, now messages are being circulated on calling for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on April 10 in solidarity with the Supreme Court’s verdict on the SC/ST Act. This will again create arson and people with vested interests will try to gain mileage out of it. Strikes, bandhs and protests are damaging the social fabric of the country and now the time has come to ban all kind of protests, strikes and rallies.

What is SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989?
The act came into force ‘to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, to provide for Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto’.

Apex Court’s ruling on SC/ST Act
“In view of the acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servants can only be made after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded.”

It directed that the reasons recorded by the competent authority and SSP must be scrutinised by the magistrate for permitting further detention of an accused.

To avoid the false implication, it also directed that a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by a DSP rank officer to find whether the allegations make out a case under the Atrocities Act and are not frivolous or motivated.

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