SUPREME COURT REITERATES ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS TO CONSTITUTE OFFENCE OF ATROCITIES UNDER SC/ST ACT 1989
Recently, a two-Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising of Justice Dipanka Datta and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat passed a judgment dated 19-05-2023 in the matter of Ramesh Chandra Vaisya vs. The State of Uttar Pradesh and Anr. [SLP (CRL) No. 1249/2023] and held that the High Court ought to have quashed the FIR filed against the Appellant, owing to gaps in the investigation conducted by Police and Charge-Sheet filed against the Appellant.
1) In the present case, a dispute arose between the Appellant, Ramesh Chandra Vaisya and the Respondent No. 2, Rajaram Bhartiya, over an issue of drainage water, when the Appellant orally abused the Respondent No. 2 with respect to his caste and family. Subsequently, a scuffle broke out between the Parties, due to which the Respondent No. 2 suffered multiple injuries on 14-01-2016.
2) Thereafter, a First Information Report (F.I.R) dated 20-01-2016 was lodged against the Appellant under Sections 323 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) (Punishment for Voluntarily Causing Hurt) and 504 IPC (Punishment for Insulting Someone Intentionally to Provoke) and Section 3 (1)(x) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (“SC/ST Act“) (“Intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a SC/ST in any place within a public view”).
3) The Investigation was completed within a day by the Investigating Officer (I.O.) and a Charge Sheet was filed on 21-01-2016 before District Court, Allahabad (Trial Court).
4) Further, according to the Appellant, he went to the Police Station on 20-01-2016 to file a complaint against the Respondent No. 2, but the concerned officer refused to lodge an FIR and further, detained the Appellant under Sections 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) (Arrest to Prevent the Commission of Cognizable Offence), 107 CrPC (Security for Keeping the Peace in Other Cases), and 116 CrPC (Inquiry as to Truth of Information).
5) Aggrieved, the Appellant moved an Application under Section 156 (3) Cr. PC. before the Trial Court / Magistrate seeking directions to the Police to register FIR against the Respondent No. 2.
6) Thereafter, as per the directions of the Trial Court, the Police registered an F.I.R. on 18-02-2016 against the Respondent No. 2 for the offences under Sections 323 IPC, 325 IPC (Punishment for Voluntarily Causing Grevious Hurt), 392 IPC (Punishment for Robbery), 452 IPC (House Trespass After Preparation for Hurt, Assault or Wrongful Restraint), 504 IPC, 506 IPC (Punishment for Criminal Intimidation) against the Respondent No. 2.
7) The Trial Court, vide Order dated 03-05-2016, took cognizance of the aforesaid Charge Sheet filed against the Appellant.
8) Aggrieved, the Appellant filed a Petition bearing A482-38374-2018 under Section 482 Cr.PC. (Saving of inherent powers of High Court) on 05-10-2018 before the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad.
9) The High Court, vide Orders dated 15-11-2018 and 23-05-2022, dismissed the Petition filed by the Appellant.
Supreme Court Observations:
Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 15-11-2018, the Appellant filed SLP (CRL) No. 1249/2023 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Apex Court, vide Order dated 19-05-2023, made the following observations:
(I). Whether it was a place within public view where the Appellant abused the Respondent No. 2 related to his caste with an intent to insult or intimidate with an intent to humiliate him.
(II). Whether the criminal proceedings against the Appellant should be allowed to be taken further only because the Appellant is facing accusation of commission of offences punishable under Sections 323 and 504 IPC.
(1) The Bench made the following observations regarding the Issue I:
(i) That the F.I.R. dated 20-01-2016, which was registered against the Appellant, did not disclose the place of occurrence. However, in the second F.I.R. dated 18-02-2016 registered at the behest of the Appellant, the place of occurrence of the incident was clearly mentioned i.e. the Appellant’s house.
(ii) That it is clear from the Charge Sheet filed by I.O. that the sole motive of Prosecution was to implicate the Appellant in this case by relying on the evidence of three witnesses so that a Charge-Sheet can be filed against the Appellant.
(iii) Taking into consideration both the Charge-Sheet and the F.I.R. dated 20-01-2016 against the Appellant, it was again not clear as to whether any member of the public was present at the place of incident.
(iv) Hence, the essential ingredient for attracting the offence under Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act i.e. the Appellant was “in any place within public view“ was missing/absent at the place of incident, as there was no one present except the family member(s) of the Appellant.
(v) Further, the Bench observed that every insult or intimidation for humiliation to persons cannot be treated as an offence Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act unless, such insult or intimidation is targeted at the victim because he/she is a member of a particular scheduled caste or tribe. (a) “If one calls another an idiot (bewaqoof) or a fool (murkh) or a thief (chor) in any place within public view, this would constitute an act intended to insult or humiliate by the user of abusive or offensive language”. (b) Further, if is any conversation or argument with a person who belongs to SC/ST in an abusive language or manner but it does not relate to his caste, then the same will not fall under the said provision of the SC/ST Act.
(vi) But in the present case, the Bench held that the essential ingredients of place of occurrence and incident to have occurred “in any place within public view” were missing in the FIR and the Charge-Sheet filed against the Appellant. Hence, the Bench did not find anything material for proceeding further against the Appellant under the provisions of SC/ST Act.
(2) The Bench made the following observations regarding the Issue II:
(i) The allegation made by the Respondent No. 2 is that the Appellant had beaten him up due to which the Respondent No. 2 sustained multiple injuries and the same was witnessed by multiple people present at the place of incident.
(ii) But the Respondent No. 2 failed to file any document to support the aforesaid argument and also, medical test was not conducted. On the other hand, the Appellant filed a report which showed that the Appellant had suffered injuries that have been treated immediately after the incident.
(iii) Hence, the Bench did not find anything material in the present case for proceeding further against the Appellant under the provisions of IPC.
Based on the aforesaid observations, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the High Court erred in not quashing the FIR filed against the Appellant under Section 482 CrPC. As a result, the High Court Orders dated 15-11-2018 and 23-05-2022 and the Trial Court Order dated 03-05-2016 were set aside and the Appeal filed by the Appellant was allowed.
The Indian Lawyer