The Allahabad High Court has held that for constituting an offence under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the alleged offence should have been committed in "public view".
The single-Judge bench comprising Justice Ram Krishna Gautam clarified that where a person is allegedly insulted for being a member of the SC/ST community behind closed doors, the SC/ST Act cannot be applied.
The order has been passed in an application filed by one KP Thakur, enquiry officer in a departmental inquiry against the complainant, Vinod Kumar Tanay.
In the backdrop, Thakur had called Tanay to his chamber for recording of evidence. The latter was accompanied by a co-worker MP Tiwari. Objecting to the same, Thakur asked Tiwari not to hinder the process and asked him to leave the chambers.
Subsequently, Tanay initiated criminal proceedings against the Applicant under Sections 323, 504, 506 of IPC and Section 3(1) (X) of the SC/ST Act. After the trial court summoned Thakur, he challenged the order in High Court.
The high court noted that the offence alleged to be committed by Thakur was short of one essential ingredient, 'public view'.
"It was a Chamber of the Enquiry Officer, where Presenting Officer and Enquiry Officer were present and it can never be said to be a public view. Even if, any occurrence took place at that place, it may never be said to be a public view and it has been verified by apex court, mentioned as above. Hence, the very ingredient of offence punishable under Section 3(1)(X) of the Act was missing," the court observed.
Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act clearly states that "whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe:-
(x) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view."
Reference may also be made to the ruling in Gorige Pentaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors., (2008) 12 SCC 531, whereby the Supreme Court had propounded that a public view is the view, which is of public access. Once it is inside any house, it will not be a public view and in the case of lack of above basic ingredient, the offences of Section 3(1)(X) of the Act is not completed.
The court also noted that the Complainant had nowhere in the entire proceedings mentioned that he was insulted because of being a member of Scheduled Caste community by persons who were not member of Scheduled Caste community. Therefore, this ingredient was also missing.
Accordingly, Thakur's application was allowed and the summoning for offence punishable under Section 3(1)(X) of the Act was quashed. However, the court did not intervene with rest of the charges and clarified that proceedings thereunder may continue.
Before parting, the court also reprimanded the Complainant for attempting to hinder the probe by inviting a colleague to the proceedings.
"Any Tom and Harry can never be permitted to come inside, wherein the enquiry is being conducted and to participate in above enquiry, rather if any Assisting Officer is to be taken by delinquent employee, he will have to move an application before Administrative Head or Enquiry Officer for appointing and permitting any Assisting Officer to that delinquent employee and, thereafter, that Assisting Officer may take part in above Administrative Enquiry," it held.
Case Title: KP Thakur & Anr. v. State of UP & Anr.
Case No.: Application U/S 482 No. 40418/2012
Quorum: Justice Ram Krishna Gautam
Appearance: Advocates Sunil Tripathi and SKTripathi (for Applicant); Govt. Advocate Ashok Kumar (for State)
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