Calling SC/ST person an idiot or a fool or a thief is not an offense u/s 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act: Supreme Court

Calling SC/ST person an idiot or a fool or a thief is not an offense u/s 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act: Supreme Court

In a significant judgment in the matter of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the Supreme Court on Friday said that it is necessary to mention the use of objectionable words/caste words by an accused in public. to be pointed out in the charge sheet filed against the accused.

The bench observed that "If one calls another an idiot (bewaqoof) or a fool (murkh) or a thief (chor) in any place within public view, this would obviously constitute an act intended to insult or humiliate by user of abusive or offensive language. Even if the same be directed generally to a person, who happens to be a Scheduled Caste or Tribe, per se, it may not be sufficient to attract section 3(1)(x) unless such words are laced with casteist remarks."

The Supreme Court was hearing a case in which a person was charged with alleged offenses under the SC/ST Act, including intentionally insulting a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe in a public place with intent to humiliate or intimidation is involved.

"Since section 18 of the SC/ST Act bars invocation of the court’s jurisdiction under section 438, Cr.PC and having regard to the overriding effect of the SC/ST Act over other laws, it is desirable that before an accused is subjected to a trial for alleged commission of offence under section 3(1)(x), the utterances made by him in any place within public view are outlined, if not in the F.I.R. (which is not required to be an encyclopaedia of all facts and events), but at least in the charge-sheet (which is prepared based either on statements of witnesses recorded in course of investigation or otherwise) so as to enable the court to ascertain whether the charge sheet makes out a case of an offence under the SC/ST Act having been committed for forming a proper opinion in the conspectus of the situation before it, prior to taking cognisance of the offence. Even for the limited test that has to be applied in a case of the present nature, the charge-sheet dated 21st January, 2016 does not make out any case of an offence having been committed by the appellant under section 3(1)(x) warranting him to stand a trial" the Bench said.

According to a bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Datta, the legislative intent appears to be clear that every insult or threat to humiliate a person belonging to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes shall not be an offense under Section 3(1)(x) . Act unless such humiliation or intimidation is intended to target the victim because that person is a member of a particular Scheduled Caste or Tribe.

It was noted that Section 18 of the SC/ST Act barred the invocation of the court's jurisdiction under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which deals with directions to grant bail to a person apprehending arrest.

The top court, which quashed the criminal proceedings against the accused, noted that neither the FIR nor the charge sheet filed against him mentioned the presence of the accused, other than the complainant and two of his family members, at the crime scene.

It added that since the statements of the appellant, if any, were not made "at any place in public view", the original ground for attracting Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act Component was missing or absent.

Except for the allegation that caste-related abuses were made, the bench noted that the FIR and the charge sheet made no reference to the statement of the appellant during the oral argument or to the caste of the complainant.

The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal from the Allahabad High Court, which had dismissed an application under Section 482 of the CrPC, seeking quashing of the charge sheet and pending criminal proceedings against the appellant in May last year.

It was found that, as per the case of the prosecution, in January 2016, the appellant had an argument with the complainant regarding water withdrawal, and it was alleged that the appellant verbally assaulted the complainant and his family members. Misbehaved, as well as assaulted him.

The bench noted that an FIR was registered against the appellant, and the investigating officer filed a chargesheet for the alleged offenses under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act Was. Investigation completed in one day.

The Appellant had approached the High Court, requesting that the criminal proceedings be quashed on the ground that there was no offense in the charge sheet and that the prosecution was initiated with an intention to harass.

Reversing the High Court order, the bench said, "Completion of investigation within a day in a given case may be appreciated, but in the present case it is more of an inconsistency than a service to justice."

Case Details:-

[ARISING OUT OF SLP (CRL) NO. 1249/2023]
Ramesh Chandra Vaishya …APPELLANT
The State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr. …RESPONDENTS

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