Offence under SC/ST Act only if intention is to humiliate publicly: Supreme Court

Credits: Outlook

While hearing an appeal by Uttarakhand resident Hitesh Verma, challenging the state High Court order rejecting his plea to quash the charge sheet and summoning orders, a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi said that any offensive remark against a member of the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe will not amount to an offence under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 “unless there is an intention to humiliate…for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste”, reports The Indian Express.

The Supreme Court has also ruled that in order to constitute an offense under the Act, the words spoken must be “in any place within public view”, and not within the four walls of a house.

As per the FIR, the woman had accused Verma of using caste remarks against her, abusing her labourers and taking away construction material from the site where she was building a house. A case was also filed against the woman. However, Verma will continue to face trial in respect of the other offences mentioned in the FIR.

“There is a dispute about the possession of land which is the subject matter of civil dispute between the parties as per respondent No. 2 herself. Due to (the) 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 civil court, any dispute arising on account of possession of the said property would not disclose an offence under the [SC/ST] Act unless the victim is abused, intimated or harassed only for the reason that she belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe,” said the order.

“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 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,” it added.

The basic ingredients of the offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act can be classified as “1) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and 2) in any place within public view,” said the bench.

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