New Delhi: Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan has written to home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday, opposing the appointment of Justice (retd) A.K. Goel as National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairman, since he was “the judge who ruled against” the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
On Monday, Paswan said that elevating Goel to the post sent the “wrong message” and several Dalit MPs were upset about it. “Kaafi sadasyon ne mamla uthaya ki jis judge ne yeh judgment diya dono ke khilaf mei… Dalit Act ke sambandh mei aur uske baad UGC ke sambandh mei… Unko tribunal ka chairman bana diya gaya hai… To uss par bhi logon ne chinta vyakt kiya ki is se galat sandesh jata hai (Several members raised the issue of the judge who ruled against the Dalit Act and the UGC… he has been made chairman of the tribunal… people expressed concern that this sends a wrong message).”
According to the Indian Express, Paswan’s letter says that the All India Ambedkar Mahasabha (AIAM), a Dalit rights coalition, has sought Goel’s removal. The AIAM has also asked for introducing a Bill in the monsoon session of parliament to safeguard the Act and “take immediate action in the interest of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes,” Paswan told Singh.
His son and Lok Sabha MP Chirag Paswan too has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating the same demands. “This time the protests could get fiercer and sharper. Justice AK Goyal’s judgement in Supreme Court rendered SC/ST ACT ineffectual. After his retirement, he has been appointed as chairman of National Green Tribunal. This has sent out a message to the SC/ST community that our government has awarded Justice Goyal for his judgement,” the letter said, according to The Hindu.
BJP MP Udit Raj has also protested Goel appointment, and even raised the matter in the Lok Sabha.
In March this year, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Goel and U.U. Lalit laid down guidelines to protect public servants and private employees from “arbitrary” arrest under the 1989 Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Opposing the amendment, Dalit activists have argued that this will dilute the Act and take away the legal protection offered to SC/ST people from discrimination. Stating that it did not agree with the court’s order, the Narendra Modi government, has filed a review plea.