On Thursday, the Supreme Court observed that a complaint cannot be registered under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act just because the complainant is a member of the SC/ST community. The offence in question must be directed towards the caste of the individual.
The observations come at a time when the SC/ST Act has been greatly misused and even non-caste insults to any person belonging to SC/ST have invited the stringent act.
Insults should be directed towards the caste for SC/ST Act to apply
A 3-Judge Bench of the apex court, comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi, stated: “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.” It further added, “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.”
Insult must be made in public view
The Court emphasised that an offence under the SC/ST act cannot simply be established by ascertaining that the victim in question is a member of the SC community. The Bench pointed out that the intention to humiliate such a person for his caste must exist for a case to be made out under SC/ST act. The apex court stated that such an insult must also be made at ‘any place within public view’ for a case to be registered under Section 3 (1) (r) of the SC/ST Act.
Details of the case
The observations were made by the Supreme Court while hearing a petition by one Hitesh Verma who sought quashing of the chargesheet against him under Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) Section 482 and Section 3(1)(r) of the SC/ST act. His petition was earlier rejected by the Uttarakhand High Court. The apex court observed that the alleged slurs were uttered by the petitioner at the residence of the complainant, in the absence of the public. It added that since the case was about a dispute over land possession, therefore charges under Section 3(1)(r) of the SC/ST act could not be invoked.
The Court stated, “In the present case, the parties are litigating over possession of the land. The allegation of hurling 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.”