Extend Protections Under 1989 Law To Muslims, Christians

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New Delhi, Oct 20 (UNI) A Law Commission of India expert today recommended extending to India's religious minorities-- Muslims and Christians-- protections against atrocities given to scheduled castes and tribes under a 19-year-old law.

''There is a strong case for an immediate extension,'' Prof Tahir Mahmood said in a statement, referring to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.

''Members of some faith groups are now facing the same kind of atrocities which the Act makes punishable if inflicted on a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Caste member,'' Prof Mahmood said.

''They therefore need the same kind of legal protection,'' Prof Mahmood said, adding that ''Providing the same will amount to enforcing Constitutional Justice.'' A Member of the Law Commssion, Prof Mahmood is a former chairman of the National Minorities Commission and former member of the Ranganath Misra Commission for Minorities.

Prof Mahmood recommended extended the Act ''mutatis mutandis...

to the religious minorities of the country.'' The Latin expression implies making necessary changes while retaining the basic terms and conditions or rules and regulations.

''The net of 'atrocities' as defined under the 1989 Act covers a wide variety of cruel and unpleasant actions and behaviour; and most of these are exactly what unfortunately the largest two minorities of the country have been facing for quite some time.

''The insensitivity of the society to this unfortunate ground reality is, to say the least, out of tune with our social ethos.

''As a Member of the Ranganath Misra Commission I had strongly recommended that the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 be amended to eliminate its provision restricting the net of Scheduled Castes to three chosen religious communities - Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

''If this recommendation is accepted, many lower castes existing among the Christians and the Muslims would automatically get the protection of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.

''However, since the anti-minority atrocities are no more restricted to the lower social strata among the minorities I now feel constrained to recommend that all the minorities in their entirety be brought within the purview of the said Act of 1989.'' He said he proposed to prepare ''a proper report incorporating this suggestion for the consideration of both the Law Commission of India and the National Minorities Commission.'' The Law Commission sees itself as contributing to ''reforming the Law for maximising Justice in society and promoting good governance under the rule of law.'' UNI MJ RP KN1650

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