Ramdas Athawale Says, States Have No Powers To Alter Central Laws

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New Delhi: Speaking in response to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s statement, Minister of state for social justice and empowerment Ramdas Athawale said that states have “no powers” to alter central laws. The MP CM said that there will be no arrests without investigation in cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA) to prevent its “misuse”.

Following protests in Madhya Pradesh by the so-called upper castes against the amendments to the POA Act, Chouhan on Thursday was reported to have said that the misuse of the amended SC/ST Act will not be allowed and a directive will be issued on arrests to follow investigation.

“The union government is committed to protect the rights of the SC and ST people. Parliament has already passed the POA Amendment Bill, 2018, [that bypasses a recent Supreme Court ruling barring automatic arrests under the Act]. Besides, the chief minister has no power to change the law,” Athawale said.

The minister, who is the head of the Republican Party of India, an ally of the ruling BJP, said he will raise the issue with MP CM.

“There are only a handful of cases where the law has been misused; but atrocities such as murder, rape and arson do take place against the Dalits and these need to be booked under the Act,” he said.

In March, the Supreme Court ordered a ban on immediate arrests under the act and ruled that permission of the appointing authority would be required to arrest a public servant and that of an SSP for the arrest of a person who is not a public servant.

“People need to change the way they treat scheduled castes, instead of asking for a change in the law. If they stop atrocities against Dalits, there will be no need to amend or fear the POA Act,” he said.

Dalit ideologue, Chandrabhan Prasad, said, “[The CM’s statement] is an attempt to polarise and also goes against the policy of the union government.”

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