NEW DELHI--In an attempt to pacify agitating upper-caste groups in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday announced that he would ensure the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is "not misused" and the accused would not be arrested before a police investigation, The Indian Expressreported.
This announcement is in stark contrast to the latest amendment to the 'atrocities act', as it is better known, that the centre eagerly pushed through Parliament and which stated that a preliminary enquiry would not be required for registration of an First Information report (FIR) by the police. According to the amendment, an investigating officer would not need anyone's permission to make arrests if a person oppressed castes filed a complaint. The President granted assent to this new amendment just last month.
The centre was forced to rush the amendment through after Dalit groups across the country protested against a Supreme Court ruling in March that was seen as a dilution of the Act. The SC ruling made it possible for the accused to get an anticipatory bail before arrests, and made it necessary for a preliminary enquiry to be conducted and prior sanction to be received from a superior officer before the accused could be arrested.
On Thursday, upper caste groups gave a call to surround the Chief Minister's residence to protest against the new amendments. In response, Chouhan tweeted that, "MP will not allow misuse of the SC/ST Act, no one will be arrested without an investigation."
एमपी में नहीं होगा SC-ST ऐक्ट का दुरुपयोग, बिना जाँच के नहीं होगी गिरफ़्तारी।— ShivrajSingh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) September 20, 2018
Earlier, he told reporters that everyone's rights would be protected in the state. Chauhan's promise of not allowing "misuse" of the Act also comes as former chief minister and BJP leader Babulal Gaur asserted that the Supreme Court ruling on the SC/ST law was correct and justified, and the government should follow it.
Gaur said the "people's anger" was against MPs who favoured the centre's amendments which were moved in August, and not against the saffron party. Referring to the Mahabharat, he said it happened "because Bhishma Pitamah chose to remain silent when Draupadi was being stripped".
As the election season picks up steam in MP, caste-related issues are expected to come further to the centre stage. The issue of reservations in promotions in government services have also been raised in different ways by different caste groups.