Offence under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act

SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act as it existed prior to Amendment of 2016:

The gravamen of Section 3(2)(v) of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is that any offence, envisaged under Indian Penal Code punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more, against a person belonging Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, should have been committed on the ground that “such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member”. Prior to the Amendment Act 1 of 2016, the words used in Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act are “……on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe”.

Effect of Amendment of 2016:

Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act has now been amended by virtue of Amendment Act 1 of 2016. By way of this amendment, the words “…….on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe” have been substituted with the words “……..knowing that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe”. Therefore, if subsequent to 26.01.2016 (i.e. the day on which the amendment came into effect), an offence under Indian Penal Code which is punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more, is committed upon a victim who belongs to SC/ST community and the accused person has knowledge that such victim belongs to SC/ST community, then the charge of Section 3(2)(v) of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is attracted. Thus, after the amendment, mere knowledge of the accused that the person upon whom the offence is committed belongs to SC/ST community suffices to bring home the charge under Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

Proof of intention or Mens Rea prior to amendment:

In the present case, unamended Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is applicable as the occurrence was on the night of 8/9.12.1995. From the unamended provisions of Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, it is clear that the statute laid stress on the intention of the accused in committing such offence in order to belittle the person as he/she belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe community.

Final Conclusion:

The evidence and materials on record do not show that the appellant had committed rape on the victim on the ground that she belonged to Scheduled Caste. Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act can be pressed into service only if it is proved that the rape has been committed on the ground that PW-3 Phoola Devi belonged to Scheduled Caste community. In the absence of evidence proving intention of the appellant in committing the offence upon PW-3-Phoola Devi only because she belongs to Scheduled Caste community, the conviction of the appellant under Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act cannot be sustained.

In the result, the conviction of the appellant under Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the sentence of life imprisonment imposed upon him are set aside and the appeal is partly allowed.

So far as the conviction of the appellant under Section 376(2)(g) IPC and other offences and sentence of imprisonment imposed upon him are confirmed. As the appellant had already undergone more than ten years, the appellant is ordered to be released forthwith unless he is required in any other case.

[Source: Asharfi vs. State of U.P. decided by SC on 8 December 2017.]
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