The Supreme Court has observed that the offence under Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is not established merely on the fact that the informant is a member of Scheduled Caste unless there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste.
The bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao observed thus while quashing a part of charge sheet against a person accused under Section 3(1)(x) and 3(1)(e) of the SC-ST Act. The High Court had refused to quash the criminal proceedings against the accused.
Referring to the provisions of the Act, the bench, also comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi observed that all insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offence under the Act unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. The court noted that the basic ingredients of the offence under Section 3(1)(r) are 1) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and 2) in any place within public view". It said:
"The object of the Act is to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as they are denied number of civil rights. Thus, an offence under the Act would be made out when a member of the vulnerable section of the Society is subjected to indignities, humiliations and harassment. The assertion of title over the land by either of the parties is not due to either the indignities, humiliations or harassment. Every citizen has a right to avail their remedies in accordance with law. Therefore, if the appellant or his family members have invoked jurisdiction of the civil court, or that respondent No.2 has invoked the jurisdiction of the civil court, then the parties are availing their remedies in accordance with the procedure established by law. Such action is not for the reason that respondent No.2 is member of Scheduled Caste."
Referring to Swaran Singh & Ors. v. State, the court observed that if the remark is made inside a building, but some members of the public are there (not merely relatives or friends) then it would not be an offence since it is not in the public view. Referring to the FIR, the bench noted that the allegations of abusing the informant were within the four walls of her building and that the informant has no case that there was any member of the public (not merely relatives or friends) at the time of the incident in the house.
"Therefore, offence under the Act is not established merely on the fact that the informant is a member of Scheduled Caste unless there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste. In the present case, the parties are litigating over possession of the land. The allegation of hurling of abuses is against a person who claims title over the property. If such person happens to be a Scheduled Caste, the offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act is not made out."
While partly quashing the Charge Sheet, the bench said that that the property disputes between a vulnerable section of the society and a person of upper caste will not disclose any offence under the Act unless, the allegations are on account of the victim being a Scheduled Caste.
Case: HITESH VERMA vs. STATE OF UTTARAKHAND [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 707 OF 2020]CORAM: Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi