Abusing a person belonging to Scheduled Caste: Culpability

Offence under SC/ST Act:

Offence under the Act is not established merely on the fact that the informant is a member of Scheduled Caste unless there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste. In the present case, the parties are litigating over possession of the land. The allegation of hurling of 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.

The appellant had sought quashing of the charge-sheet on the ground that the allegation does not make out an offence under the Act against the appellant merely because respondent No. 2 was a Scheduled Caste since the property dispute was not on account of the fact that respondent No. 2 was a Scheduled Caste. The property disputes between a vulnerable section of the society and a person of upper caste will not disclose any offence under the Act unless, the allegations are on account of the victim being a Scheduled Caste.Still further, the finding that the appellant was aware of the caste of the informant is wholly inconsequential as the knowledge does not bar, any person to protect his rights by way of a procedure established by law.

Within Public View:

As per the FIR, the allegations of abusing the informant were within the four walls of her building. It is not the case of the informant that there was any member of the public (not merely relatives or friends) at the time of the incident in the house. Therefore, the basic ingredient that the words were uttered “in any place within public view” is not made out. In the list of witnesses appended to the charge-sheet, certain witnesses are named but it could not be said that those were the persons present within the four walls of the building. The offence is alleged to have taken place within the four walls of the building.

Conclusion by Supreme Court:

There is a dispute about the possession of the land which is the subject matter of civil dispute between the parties as per respondent No.2 herself. Due to dispute, appellant and others were not permitting respondent No.2 to cultivate the land for the last six months. Since the matter is regarding possession of property pending before the Civil Court, any dispute arising on account of possession of the said property would not disclose an offence under the Act unless the victim is abused, intimated or harassed only for the reason that she belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

In view of the above facts, we find that the charges against the appellant under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act are not made out.Consequently, the charge-sheet to that extent is quashed. The appeal is disposed of in the above terms.25.The FIR in respect of other offences will be tried by the competent Court in accordance with law along with the criminal case11, though separately initiated, for the reason that it relates to inter party dispute and is in respect of same subject matter of property, despite of the fact that two different dates of the incident have been provided by the parties.

[Source: Hitesh Verma v. State of Uttrakhand decided by SC on November 5, 2020]

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