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"Section 3(2)(V) of SC/ST Act Will Not Attract Automatically": Supreme Court Considers Modifying Life Sentence Of Rape Convict

Mehal Jain
5 April 2021 2:59 PM GMT
Section 3(2)(V) of SC/ST Act Will Not Attract Automatically: Supreme Court Considers Modifying Life Sentence Of Rape Convict
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"Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Act will not be attracted automatically because the victim belongs to such and such category. You have to establish that the ingredients of 3(2)(v) are made out", reiterated the Supreme Court on Monday.Section 3(2)(v) provides that whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, commits any offence under the IPC punishable with imprisonment...

"Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Act will not be attracted automatically because the victim belongs to such and such category. You have to establish that the ingredients of 3(2)(v) are made out", reiterated the Supreme Court on Monday.

Section 3(2)(v) provides that whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, commits any offence under the IPC punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more against a person or property on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member, shall be punishable with imprisonment for life and with fine.
The petitioner before the bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and M. R. Shah was the sole accused tried for the offences punishable under Section 376(1) of the IPC and under Section 3(2)(v) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for committing rape on the victim girl who is aged about 20 years and blind by birth, on 31.03.2011 at about 9:30 AM in her house. Vide judgment dated 19.02.2013, the trial court convicted the accused for the offences punishable under Section 376(1) I.P.C. and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/-, under Section 376(1) I.P.C. The accused was also concurrently sentenced to undergo life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/-, for the offence punishable under Section 3(2)(v) of the Act. In August, 2019, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had dismissed the appeal, confirming the conviction and the sentence.
On Monday, the bench took note of a 2019 judgment of the top court, by a bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi, where the court had reduced the sentence of life imprisonment of a murder convict to the sentence already undergone, noting that "There is no evidence to show that the offence was committed only on the ground that the victim was a member of the Scheduled Caste and therefore, the conviction of the appellant-accused under Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is not sustainable"
"We will confirm the conviction but modify the sentence… 3(2)(v) is not established. The accused is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. It was a heightened offence, but you have to establish that the ingredients of 3(2)(v) are made out ", said Justice Chandrachud at the outset.
"Nobody will ask (if the offence was committed against the victim on the ground that they are a member of an SC or a ST), it must be alleged in the FIR that the victim belonged to so-and-so and that is why the rape was committed! Only then is 3(2)(v) to be attracted. It will not be attracted automatically because the victim belongs to so-and-so", concurred Justice Shah.
In appeal, the Andhra Pradesh High Court framed the point for determination as: "Whether the prosecution proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt against the accused for the offences punishable under Section 376(1) I.P.C. and Section 3(2)(v) of the Act and whether the judgment of the trial Court is correct, legal and proper?"
"Before dealing as to whether an offence under Section 3(2)(v) of the Act is made out, it may be necessary to prove whether an offence under Section 376 I.P.C. is made out...From the evidence of the witnesses stated above, we hold that the prosecution established beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence... Having regard to the above, we feel that the trial Court has rightly convicted the accused for the offence punishable under Section 376(1) I.P.C. and sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/-...", the High Court had ruled.
The division bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court had recorded, "Learned counsel for the appellant/accused would contend that the ingredients of Section 3(2)(v) of the Act are not attracted to the present facts of the case as the offence was not committed on the ground that the victim girl belongs to S.C. Caste"
"Section 3(2)(v) of the Act provides that the offence gets attracted if it is committed against a person knowing that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member. Even otherwise still the offence under Section 376(1) I.P.C. is made out. In the result, we hold that the prosecution proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt against the accused for the offences punishable under Section 376(1) of I.P.C. and under Section 3(2)(v) of the Act and as such, the judgment of the trial Court warrants no interference", the High Court had held in dismissing the appeal.
In issuing notice on the SLP, the top court had confined to the following submission of the counsel for the petitioner- "Learned counsel submits that in view of the expression 'on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe' in Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, which has been interpreted in the decisions of this Court, an offence under this provision has not been established. Hence, the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment in respect of an offence under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 was not in accordance with law"
Life imprisonment under section 376(1) as introduced by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983?
The incident being of March, 2011, the counsel for the petitioner argued that section 376(1) of the IPC, as it stood then, contemplated a punishment of minimum 7 years' imprisonment and which may extend to 10 years, for the offence of rape. "And I have already suffered 10 years in jail ", he pressed. It was his plea that since section 3(2)(v) was not attracted, he could not have been sentenced to life imprisonment, and having already undergone 10 years in jail, he should be released now.
Section 376(1), as it stands today after the amendments of 2013 and 2018, prescribes a minimum punishment of 10 years' imprisonment and a maximum of life sentence.
The bench noted that the unamended section 376(1) of the IPC as it stood in 2011, as introduced by the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 1983 (Act 43 of 1983), provided that "whoever, (except for in the cases stipulated in sub-section (2)), commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may be for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine..."
The bench placed reliance on a 2006 judgment of the apex court in Dinesh v. State of Rajasthan, where Justice A. Pasayat had opined, "Sine qua non for application of Section 3(2)(v) is that an offence must have been committed against a person on the ground that such person is a member of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. In the instant case no evidence has been led to establish this requirement. In view of the finding that Section 3(2)(v) of the Atrocities Act is not applicable, the sentence provided in Section 376(2)(f) IPC (which dealt with rape of a girl below 12 years of age, for which the punishment was rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may be for life) does not per se become life sentence".
"Though learned counsel for the State submitted that even in a case covered under Section 376(2)(f)w IPC, imprisonment for life can be awarded, it is to be noted that minimum sentence of 10 years has been statutorily provided and considering the attendant circumstances the imprisonment for life in a given case is permissible. Neither the Trial Court nor the High Court has indicated any such factor. Only by applying Section 3(2)(v) of the Atrocities Act the life sentence was awarded. Therefore, the sentence is reduced to 10 years...", it was held in the 2006 case.
"Life imprisonment can be awarded. Life imprisonment is there", Justice Shah told the petitioner's counsel.
"Life imprisonment is permissible...But even if we don't award life imprisonment, we won't confine the sentence to 10 years in this case. That is only the minimum. This is a case where the girl was blind and the accused, being her neighbour, was aware of this fact. He went to her house and asked her mother where she is and then committed the act. This is not a one-off case when he saw her somewhere and raped her", agreed Justice Chandrachud.
The bench adjourned the matter to Friday for consideration on this point.


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