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Hazardous to hold that mere reference to caste wouldn't be an offence under SC/ST Act: High Court of Bombay

Team SoOLEGAL 28 Apr 2022 11:44am

Hazardous to hold that mere reference to caste wouldn't be an offence under SC/ST Act: High Court of Bombay

New Delhi: The Bombay High Court said it would be precarious to hold that merely mentioning a person's caste is not an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 (SC/ST Act).

The use of the words concerning the victim's caste must be considered in the context of the entire case, according to single-judge Justice NJ Jamadar.

The Court stated it would be dangerous to lay down a broad proposition of law that mere reference to the victim's caste or tribe does not fall within the dragnet of the offences punishable under Section 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the SC/ST Act.

The court was hearing an anticipatory bail petition filed by Ramrao Rathod, who was charged with violating Sections 3(r) and (s) of the SC/ST Act.

The victim in this case, according to the prosecution, was looking for a job as a telemarketer and was interviewed by Rathod. He, on the other hand, did not choose her but made advances toward her, which she did not return. The victim later got a job as a receptionist at another office.

The accused barged into the victim's boss's office on the day of the incident. She asked her to sign the visitor's book and insulted her by referring to her caste while she was there.

The accused, through his counsel Aniket Nikam, claimed that his client's caste was not mentioned in the First Information Report (FIR).

It was argued that the prosecution must prove that the appellant is not a member of the SC or ST community. The offences punishable under Sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the SC and ST Act cannot be said to have been prima facie made out in the absence of such a positive assertion in the FIR.

This argument, on the other hand, was dismissed by the Court.

"Undoubtedly, a person who is a member of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe cannot be prosecuted for commission of atrocities on the other members of SC ST. The prosecution is enjoined to establish that the perpetrator of the alleged offence under Section 3 of the SC and ST Act is not a member of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. However, this burden on the prosecution does not necessarily support a proposition that the fact that the accused does not belong to SC/ST must be mentioned in the FIR, and failure to do so entails the consequence of drawing an inference that no prima facie offence is made out, or for that matter, quashing the prosecution. At multiple stages in the course of prosecution for the offence punishable under Section 3 of the SC/ ST Act, the said question can be agitated, addressed, and determined," the Court stated.

Adv. Nikam's next argument was that merely mentioning the prosecutrix's caste in the allegations leveled against the accused would not be enough to bring the accused's actions within the scope of the Sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the SC and ST Act.

The judge also noted that the victims as well as three other witnesses in the case have stated repeatedly that Rathod humiliated her by saying things about her caste in the FIR.

The Court also rejected this, stating that establishing such a broad proposition would be dangerous.

In light of this, it would be difficult to conclude at this point that the offences punishable under Sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the SC and ST Act have not been established prima facie. The appeal is overturned, the court stated. 



Tagged: Bombay High Court   SC ST Act 1989     
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