A Division Bench of the Supreme Court last week issued notice on a SLP filed against an order of the Allahabad High Court quashing an FIR lodged by a professor of IIT Kanpur against caste based harassment allegedly inflicted upon him by his colleagues.
"The Hon'ble High Court erred in exercising its inherent power under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in a routine-mechanical manner setting at naught the cognizance taken and the FIR lodged at the threshold, committing grave miscarriage of justice and concomitant misery and heartburn for the Petitioner and his family, belonging to the Scheduled Caste community," the plea filed by Dr. Subrahmanyam Saderla states.
The Bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Surya Kant has asked the Respondents, represented by Senior Advocate Siddhartha Luthra, to file their counter affidavits in the matter.
Dr. Saderla, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, belonging to the Scheduled Caste community, had filed a FIR against 4 colleagues from the same institute in November, 2018, alleging a series of actions allegedly amounting to caste based discrimination.
The FIR was lodged for offences and atrocities punishable under Section 3 of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, as the Petitioner was "disheartened and disgruntled by the persistent and unbridled harassment and public slur on caste lines at the hands of the Respondents."
The same came to be stayed by the Allahabad High Court within 4 days and was finally quashed vide order dated March 5, 2020.
The Petitioner has submitted that it is the basic fundamental right of an individual to report a cognizable offence committed against him to the police, so as to prevent any further harm to his life, liberty and property. However, the High Court quashed his FIR in a "routine-mechanical manner" at the very threshold.
He submitted that the High Court proceeded on an "erroneous premise" that the Respondents did not know that the Petitioner was a member of the schedule caste.
"The said assumption is negated by a bare perusal of the FIR and its contents, wherein the Petitioner has categorically stated that he was recruited to IIT Kanpur in pursuance of a special recruitment drive for STs, SCs and OBCs conducted by the institute…It is pertinent to mention that nowhere in the writ petition or the rejoinder filed before the High Court have the accused denied knowledge of the SC status of the Petitioner," he submitted.
It was pointed out that the High Court even erred in not taking into consideration the acts and incidents of defamation mentioned in the FIR, that were aimed at lowering the Petitioner's moral/ intellectual character in respect of his caste.
It is stated that the High Court erroneously observed that the offence of Defamation under Sections 499 and 500 of IPC shall not be attracted to the present case as the alleged incident occurred in a 'close door meeting'.
He informed the Top Court that successive reports by three independent and unrelated bodies, viz. (i) the fact-finding committee of IIT-K, (ii) the National Commission of Scheduled Castes and (iii) the Enquiring Authority held by Justice Saeed-uz-Zama Siddiqi, Former Judge, High Court of Allahabad, found the Respondents guilty of publicly humiliating, harassing and openly discriminating against the Petitioner in stark violation of the SC/ST Act and suggested action to be taken against the errant professors in accordance with the law.
"If blanket protection is given from initiation of investigation and any action being taken against them inspite of such categorical and unequivocal findings, it would result in irreparable damage to the fabric of social equality and equal treatment under the law," he contended.
The Petitioner was represented by Senior Advocate Ashok Kumar Gupta, AOR Sunita Sharma and Advocates Abhishek Gupta and Raushal Kumar.