If Motive For Crime Is Not Casteist Attack, Provisions Of SC/ST Act Can't Be Invoked: Karnataka High Court Reiterates
The Karnataka High Court has reiterated that provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act) cannot be invoked in every crime where the victim happens to be a member of the SC/ST community. Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar has observed,"It is not as though in every crime, if the victim happens to be a member of scheduled caste...
The Karnataka High Court has reiterated that provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act) cannot be invoked in every crime where the victim happens to be a member of the SC/ST community.
Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar has observed,
"It is not as though in every crime, if the victim happens to be a member of scheduled caste or scheduled tribe, an offence under Section 3 of the Act has been committed. If motive for crime is not casteist attack, the accused can only be chargesheeted for any of the offences under Indian Penal Code that can be appropriately invoked in the background of the incident of crime or under other law which can be applied as the facts and circumstances indicate."
Further, the Bench said,
"The Act was enacted for eradication of untouchability, and to protect the members of scheduled caste or scheduled tribes from casteist attack and caste based discrimination. It is in this background that various offences are enumerated in Section 3. The primary requirement for invoking any of the offences under Section 3 is caste based attack or hatred towards that caste. Unless the investigation indicates or reveals intention of a person not belonging to scheduled caste or scheduled tribe to commit any of the offences under Section 3 of the Act, in order to oppress or insult or humiliate or subjugate or ridicule a member of scheduled caste or scheduled tribe as such person merely belongs to that caste, the offence under Section 3 cannot be invoked in the charge sheet."
"While the Act is essentially meant for protecting the members of scheduled caste or scheduled tribe from atrocity or oppression, at the same, it cannot be allowed to be misused. Therefore there is greater responsibility on the investigating officer to take a decision wisely before filing the charge sheet."
The court made these observation while allowing the petition filed by one Lokanath seeking to quash the FIR registered against him under Sections 172, 173 of IPC and Section 3(1)(F), 3(1)(g) of SC/ST (POA), based on the complaint made by one Srisangam Priya.
The two were involved in a property dispute. Accordingly, the Petitioner had contended that merely because he is fighting to protect his property, it is quite strange that the Respondent went to the extent of making a false complaint against him under the provisions of SC/ST Act.
He added that the dispute is purely civil in nature and if the FIR is read, it makes out no offence against the petitioner at all.
The bench went through the relevant land records produced by the petitioner. It referred to Sections 3(1)(f) of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and said, "For invoking clause(f), the land of a member of scheduled caste or scheduled tribe must be wrongfully occupied or cultivated by a person not belonging to scheduled caste or scheduled tribe." It added, "The charge sheet does not disclose these ingredients."
Further, the court noted, "As regards offence under Section 3(1)(g) of the Act is concerned, the essential ingredient is wrongful dispossession or wrongful interference. There is no material indicating wrongful dispossession of the second respondent from his land or wrongful interference with his land."
It then opined,
"If the premise of the litigation is seen, it is nothing more than a dispute between two adjacent landowners. The petitioner disputes the very identity of the second respondent's land and therefore, a competent Civil Court can alone take a decision in this regard. For this reason Section 3(1)(g) is also not attracted."
Following which the court observed, "In the case on hand, as already discussed, no offence of atrocity appears to have taken place. Then there remain two offences under Indian Penal Code, Sections 172 and 173 of IPC, both the offences relate to avoidance of summons or notice. Since the charge sheet materials do not disclose the offence under Section 3(1)(f) and 3(1)(g) of the Act, prosecuting the petitioner for two IPC offences amounts to abuse of process of court."
Accordingly it allowed the petition and quashed the proceedings against the petitioner pending before a Sessions Court in Bengaluru.
Case Title: Lokanath v. State Of Karnataka
Case No: Criminal Petition No.80 of 2021
Date of Order: October 4, 2021.
Appearance: Advocate V.B.Shivakumar, for petitioner; Advocate R.D.Renukaradhya, for R1; Advocate N.R.Naik, for R2.