The Bombay High Court pulled up the complainant teacher for putting up banners seeking the principal's arrest, while granting anticipatory bail to the principal accused of hurling casteist remarks, a punishable offence under the SC/ST Act, at an "under-performing" teacher.
Dr Lekha Visaria, the appellant had approached the High Court after an FIR under section 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was registered against her on February 9, 2022, on a teacher's complaint regarding an incident from October 2021.
Justice Madhav Jamdar held that the teacher's act of publishing a banner and then putting it up, emanated from the thought of seeking vengeance and was "uncalled for."
"Once the complaint is lodged, FIR registered, the publication of the banner is uncalled for. Complainant cannot seek extra judicial remedies to pressurize the prosecution. Prosecution will carry out the investigation on the basis of cogent material on record and its investigation process. Parties should desist from such acts and allow the prosecution to do its duty in accordance with law."
Other reasons that weighed in on the judge were the delay in filing the FIR, the absence of a caste-reference in the alleged incriminating conversation between the teacher and principal and allegations regarding the teacher's poor performance.
Facts of the Case
The complainant a teacher of Swami Vivekanand School was allegedly pulled up and asked to apologise after several mistakes were found in the marksheet and evaluation of class 10 students during the 2021 examination, last monsoon. Other teachers were also asked to do the same.
However, it was alleged that on August 15, after the flag hoisting ceremony the principal insulted the complainant regarding her teaching skills. She complained to the trustee about this. However, she was served a notice for dereliction the next day. On the date of the incident, October 5, 2021, the teacher was allegedly summoned to the principal's cabin, stating that the apology letter was still not given. That's when the casteist slurs were allegedly made.
She alleged that thereafter two other teachers entered the cabin on the 5th, and even in front of them the tirade continued. Subsequently on December 1, 2021 the teacher was asked to teach class 5 & 6 standard students instead of her std 10 batch and Twenty-three days later she approached the police and an FIR was registered months later, in February.
The advocate appearing for the principal submitted that only after the teacher's evaluation and her down-gradation to class 5 and 6, the complaint was filed. He emphasized the acrimony and animosity between the complainant and teacher.
Moreover, he argued that there is no reference whatsoever to the caste of the complainant in the alleged utterance narrated in the FIR.
The advocate for the teacher claimed that she may have approached the police a couple of months later, but the she had already complained to the trustee, the board etc. Therefore, the delay in lodging the FIR was explained.
The court however observed, "Prima facie it is seen that there is no reference to the caste of the informant by the Appellant in the statement which has been alleged to be insulting according to the complainant."
Regarding the eye witnesses the court said, "What is pertinent to note is the fact that though it is claimed that there were two eye witnesses to the incident, what was stated in front of the eye witnesses is not stated / narrated or complained of in the FIR.
Save and except the incident on 05.10.2021, there is no other specific incident about which the informant has made a grievance and which could remotely attract the provisions of the Atrocities Act."
Case Title : Dr. Lekha Rajesh Visaria v The State of Maharashtra and Ors.
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 201