23 Nov 2023 12:17 PM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has observed that the deity in a temple cannot be imagined to be belonging to only a few. In refusing to quash criminal proceedings against eight persons accused of stopping a family from entering a place of worship and physically as well as verbally abusing the complainant, her husband and her child, a single bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna held,Worshipping of the...
The Karnataka High Court has observed that the deity in a temple cannot be imagined to be belonging to only a few.
In refusing to quash criminal proceedings against eight persons accused of stopping a family from entering a place of worship and physically as well as verbally abusing the complainant, her husband and her child, a single bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna held,
Worshipping of the deity, by entering into the temple, is to be given to one and all. Any kind of bigotry or discrimination is unacceptable. Although temples are seen to be symbols of unity and inclusivity, denial of rights of temple entry and worship, to persons belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, still looms large.”
The petitioners were charged under provisions of Sections 3(1)(10) and (11) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and Sections 506, 341, 504, 143, 147, 148, 149, 323, 324 and 354(B) of the IPC on the basis of a complaint filed by Savithramma who stated that she, her husband, along with their child and others, had sought to visit the Gadi Chowdeshwari Temple in 2016 to witness special poojas which were being held on every full moon and new moon night.
It was submitted by the complainant that when she and her family had approached the temple at around 9 am, the petitioners allegedly stopped and assaulted them while hurling abusive language concerning the complainant's family and their caste, describing how their visit to the temple had made it "unholy." A complaint was registered against the petitioners due to this exchange.
After completion of the investigation, the police filed a chargesheet against the accused, following which the accused filed a discharge application before the trial court which was rejected. Subsequently they approached the court in the present proceedings to quash the criminal complaints registered against them.
The petitioners argued that there are no ingredients that would become an offence under Section 3(1)(10) and (11) of the Act. Emphasising the fact that trial is now sought to be conducted on the provisions which have undergone an amendment with the corresponding provision being Section 3(1)(r) and (s) of the Act. Therefore, it is vitiated on account of non-application of mind. Moreover, even if it is accepted that abuses have been hurled, they have been hurled between the walls of the temple which would not become a public place or place of public view to attract the offence.
The prosecution opposed such a plea arguing that the incident had taken place 7 years ago, pursuant to which, a chargesheet had also been filed immediately. It was argued that the petitioners had only preferred the present petition in the year 2023 and that there were seriously disputed questions of fact, which would require a full-blown trial for the petitioners to come out clean.
On going through the case records the Bench noted that if the complaint and the charge sheet were read together, it would depict horrendous acts upon the petitioners. It further stated that a perusal of the statements of witnesses recorded by the Investigating Officer including eyewitness accounts would clearly indicate offences having occurred.
The complainant, in her Section 164 CrPC statement before the learned Magistrate, has narrated the incident as is narrated in the statement recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC,” it clarified.
It added “The petitioners notwithstanding the aforesaid finding in the charge sheet and pretending to be innocent, seek their discharge from the array of accused. The concerned Court, appropriately recording cogent reasons, has rejected the application.”
In further rejecting the contention of petitioners that no abuses had been hurled by them which would come under the purview of Section 3(1)(10) or (11)/ Section 3(1)(r) & (s) of the SCST Act, the Bench held that the mere fact that the SCST Act had undergone amendment during the pendency of these proceedings would not absolve the petitioners of their offences. It held that Section 3(1)(10) and (11) had merely been renumbered as Section 3(1)(r) & (s) of the Act, with the essence of the offence remaining unchanged.
It was further held that for an offence to have taken place under Section 3(1) (r) an accused with an intention to insult a member belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe must hurl abuses in public. Section 3(1)(s) makes it an offence against an accused if the abuses are hurled with an intention to insult in a place of public view by taking the name of the caste. The abuses are to be hurled in a public place or a place of public view.
Court thus noted that ingredients of both the aforesaid sections had been attracted in the present case, since the complainant and her family, belonging to a marginalised community, were insulted and stopped from entering the Temple. It was held that this was not a case where the petitioners did not know to which caste the complainant or her family belonged and that being fully aware of the same, they stopped them from entering the temple and verbally and physically abused them. Court opined:
"If this cannot be construed to be a place of public view or even a public place, I fail to understand what else could be. The offences under the Act are, therefore, appropriately laid against the petitioners. The abuses are hurled and hurled in public which is viewed by several public as it was outside the doors of the Temple and the Temple is, trite, a public place. Therefore, the challenge to the offences under the Atrocities Act so laid tumbles down.”
In further noting that one of the petitioners had allegedly "touched the body of the complainant inappropriately, kicked, pushed her down and again kicked," the Court held that such acts would be tantamount to criminal offences under the provisions of Section 354(B) or Section 323 or even Section 324 of the IPC.
Accordingly, in refusing to exercise its jurisdiction to quash the case at hand under Section 482 CrPC, the Court reflected on the regressive attitude of the petitioners and the need for temples to be inclusive places of worship. It concluded:
“This attitude of the petitioners is undoubtedly regressive for they have denied entry into a temple, only on the score that the complainant and her family belong to scheduled caste. This discrimination should stop, and stop forthwith. The fact that it is still prevailing shocks the conscience of the Court. Human beings are to be treated as human beings. Any kind of bigotry or discrimination is unacceptable. Trial in such cases cannot be interdicted. There are complete ingredients of the offences so alleged present in the case at hand."
Appearance: Advocate Satish M S for Advocate Malipatil P S for Petitioners.
HCGP Yashodha K P FOR R1.
Advocate S G Rajendra Reddy for R2.
Citation No: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 447
Case Title: Pandurangabhat & Others And State By Malebennur Police & Another.
Case No: CRIMINAL PETITION No.1723 OF 2023
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