To Punish A Person For Casteist Insults Under SC/ ST Act, Comments Have To Be Made Within Public View: Supreme Court

Update: 2024-05-20 14:14 GMT
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The Supreme Court, while deciding a case arising out of a complaint made for an offence under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Act), observed that an allegation of insult has to satisfy the requirement of having been made within public view. In the present case, the appellant had alleged that an offence under the Scheduled Caste and...

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The Supreme Court, while deciding a case arising out of a complaint made for an offence under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Act), observed that an allegation of insult has to satisfy the requirement of having been made within public view.

In the present case, the appellant had alleged that an offence under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 has been committed against him. Based on this, he filed an application under Section 156 of the CrPC before the Trial Court. The application sought a direction for a registration of the FIR, and the same forms the basis of the present criminal appeal. Subsequently, the Court ordered a preliminary inquiry into the matter, and after the perusal, it dismissed the application.

Challenging this order, an appeal was filed before the High Court. Since the same was allowed and registration of an FIR was ordered, the present appellants approached the Top Court.

At the very outset, the Court observed that if allegations in the petition are vague and do not disclose the ingredients of an offence, registration of an FIR and investigation cannot be ordered.

Thereafter, the Court examined Section 3 (Punishments for offences of atrocities) of the Act. Section 3(1)(r) makes an intentional insult or intimidation intended to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view an offence.

The Court underscored the usage of the phrase “in any place within public view” in the Section. With this background in place, the Court examined the appellant's allegation and found the same, prima facie, to be ambiguous. The Court also highlighted that 'public view' means within a view of a person other than the complainant.

The specific allegation in the complaint on Appellant No. 2 is that Appellant No. 2 called Respondent No. 2 “chuda”, “chamar”, “chakka” and “faggot”. The allegation does not refer to the place nor the public view before whom it was made.,” the Court said.

Appellant No. 4 is accused of humiliating Respondent No. 2 with a casteist remark allegedly on 17th December. The date is stated, but the year is not stated, leaving one to infer whether these remarks were made in 2016 or 2017. The accusation against Appellant No. 3 and Appellant No. 6 do not refer to a casteist slur but refer to abuses hurled at Respondent No. 2.,” the Court added.

Having said that, the Court opined that these allegations do not satisfy the requirement of having been made in public view. Besides that, the Court also found the Trial Court's order of a preliminary inquiry to be justified. Taking a cue from that, the Delhi High Court's order of filing an FIR was rendered unsustainable.

To support this, the Court had also cited a thread of precedents wherein it was well-established that, under section 156(3), the Magistrate does not act mechanically and rather exercises his discretion judiciously. There has to be an application of mind into the circumstances complained of and the offence alleged against the accused.

From the above consideration, the available conclusion is that firstly, the Metropolitan Magistrate at the relevant point of time was justified in ordering a preliminary inquiry on the application dated 09.05.2018 and receiving the Action Taken Report from the jurisdictional police station. Further, the accusations in the complaints do not satisfy as having been made in any place within public view.,” held Justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti.

It may be noted that both parties were trainee athletes at Olympic Riding and Equestrian Academy, Eastern Jaunapur, New Delhi, a training facility for enthusiastic equestrian athletes. Considering a barrage of counter-allegations and the cases filed in the present matter, the Court, before parting, marked “a doubt arises whether someone who cannot calm oneself can calm and guide a horse in the horse's enthusiasm to perform each element with minimum encouragement from the rider and be an equestrian. We leave it to the passion and path of the parties.”

Case Title: PRITI AGARWALLA AND OTHERS v. THE STATE OF GNCT OF DELHI AND OTHERS., CRIMINAL APPEAL NO (S). 348 OF 2021

Citation : 2024 LiveLaw (SC) 394

Click here to read/ download the judgment 



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