Public utterances of accused must be shown in FIR/chargesheet before he is subjected to trial for SC/ST Act offences: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court recently ruled that before an accused is subjected to a trial for offences under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act), the utterances made by him in public view must be outlined either in the First Information Report (FIR) or the charge-sheet [Ramesh Chandra Vaishya v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Another].

A Division Bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta highlighted that the same is necessary so as to enable courts to ascertain whether the chargesheet makes out a case of an offence under the SC/ST Act or not, prior to taking cognizance of the offence.

“It is desirable that before an accused is subjected to a trial for alleged commission of offence under section 3(1)(x), the utterances made by him in any place within public view are outlined, if not in the F.I.R. (which is not required to be an encyclopaedia of all facts and events), but at least in the charge-sheet (which is prepared based either on statements of witnesses recorded in course of investigation or otherwise) so as to enable the court to ascertain whether the charge sheet makes out a case of an offence under the SC/ST Act having been committed for forming a proper opinion in the conspectus of the situation before it, prior to taking cognisance of the offence,” the judgment stated.

The Court was hearing an appeal challenging a decision of the Allahabad High Court which had refused to quash the FIR against the appellant under Sections 323 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 and Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST act.

In its analysis, the top court noted that the FIR registered against the appellant is silent about the place of occurrence and who was present when the appellant was alleged to have hurled caste-related abuses at the complainant.

It was then highlighted by the Court that to prove an offence under the SC/ST Act, the requirement is that accused must have hurled caste-related abuses at the complaint with the intent to humiliate him, and within public view. However, the Court noted that the three witnesses relied upon by the complainant are his own family members. Further, neither the FIR nor chargesheet refers to any member of the public present at the scene of the incident.

While acquitting the appellant of the charges under the SC/ST Act, the Court observed,

“If one calls another an idiot (bewaqoof) or a fool (murkh) or a thief (chor) in any place within public view, this would obviously constitute an act intended to insult or humiliate by user of abusive or offensive language. Even if the same be directed generally to a person, who happens to be a Scheduled Caste or Tribe, per se, it may not be sufficient to attract section 3(1)(x) unless such words are laced with casteist remarks.”

Advocate-on-Record Vanshaja Shukla appeared for the appellant.

Additional Advocate General Ardhendhumauli Kumar Prasad appeared for the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Advocate Sanjay Shukla appeared for the complainant.

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