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‘Misuse of SC/ST Act to protect land mafia’: Allahabad HC quashes criminal proceedings against Dehradun couple, says Act misused for personal vendetta

The court emphasised that the SC/ST Act, which is designed to protect vulnerable communities, was being misused for personal vendettas and to protect corrupt officials. investigation.

On 15th May, the Allahabad High Court quashed criminal proceedings under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against a couple. The single-judge bench led by Justice Prashant Kumar highlighted that the act was misused for personal vendetta. The court observed that the government official who filed the case against the couple, identified as Alka Sethi and her husband Dhruv Sethi, exploited the provisions of the Act. OpIndia accessed the judgment in the matter.

Case background and chronology

An appeal was filed by Alka Sethi and her husband Dhruv Sethi under Section 482 of the CrPC seeking to quash the proceedings against them based on a case filed in 2023. The FIR filed against the couple mentioned that they allegedly used caste-based abusive language against a government official identified as Vasudev who went to inspect their land on 18th August 2023. The complainant mentioned that the couple allegedly detained the official and threatened him.

The matter was related to land purchased by Sethis in Saharanpur on 2nd August 2016 from a person named Lokesh Mittal. There were some issues with the land record transfer and the name of the purchaser, Dhruv Sethi, was mutated in the land records. He filed an appeal in the SDM court in 2021 and got a decree in his favour for the demarcation of the land.

Despite getting an order from the SDM court, the process of demarcation was delayed. He filed a complaint suggesting the local land mafia and some officials along with the police hatched a conspiracy to grab his land. After a long wait, the SDM court set the date for inspection on 18th August 2023.

On the date of inspection, the revenue officer called him at the police station and misguided him that the date of demarcation was postponed. However, the couple caught the revenue team red-handed doing demarcation in their absence. The couple recorded the whole incident which agitated the officials present at the scene.

Following the incident, the couple approached SDM court and District Court to file a complaint against Lekhpal Vasudev and others. However, after much persuasion, the complaint could not be filed. They came back to Dehradun, where they lived. On 19th August, they came to know that an FIR under the SC/ST Act was filed against them. The court mentioned in its order that the FIR against Sethis was filed to ensure no complaint was filed against the revenue officer and officials accompanying him.

The couple approached Allahabad High Court to get interim protection in the matter which was granted on 28th October 2023. On 27th November, a chargesheet was filed against Sethis and the trial court took cognizance of the matter issuing summons on 24th January 2024. On 15th May, the case against Sethis was quashed by the court.

Court’s observations

Justice Prashant Kumar observed that the entire case against Sehtis was initiated as a counterblast to the Sethis’ complaints about unauthorized land demarcation and corruption involving local officials and land mafias.

The court observed that there was no evidence against Sethis that they were aware of Vasudev’s caste or used caste-related language against him. The court emphasised that the SC/ST Act, which is designed to protect vulnerable communities, was being misused for personal vendettas and to protect corrupt officials. The court also observed that Sehtis provided video evidence of the incident that was not considered during the investigation.

Quashing the criminal proceedings and the chargesheet against the couple, the court directed the Director General of Police to investigate the conduct of the revenue officers, police personnel, and land mafias involved, ensuring the complaints lodged by the Sethis are properly investigated within four months.

Misuse of SC/ST Act

The judgment in the matter emphasised the misuse of the SC/ST Act for personal revenge. The court noted that the complaint was driven by ulterior motives, undermining the true intent of the legislation designed to protect marginalised communities from discrimination and atrocities.

Judge remarked that there is an increasing trend of misuse of the Act and emphasised the need for a balanced approach to ensuring that the law serves its intended purpose without being weaponized for personal vendettas.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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