SC/ST Act not attracted if caste-based verbal abuse takes place inside house with no outsider: Allahabad High Court

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The Allahabad High Court recently held that verbal abuse by utterance of caste name of a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe would not be an offence under Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act) if such incident takes place within a house where no outsider is present. [Bhaiya Lal Singh v. State of UP]
Justice Shamim Ahmed said that a person can be subjected to trial for the offence under Section 3(1)(s) of the SC/ST Act, only if utterances by him were made in any “place within a public view”.

The Court made the observations while quashing a case against a school owner who was accused by a parent of failing his son and other students in Class XII examination.

The complaint alleged that the accused and his associates offered ₹5 lakh to the complainant for silencing his protest against the result of the students.

The accused also abused the complainant by using his caste name and threatened him when they came to his house, the complaint said.

However, Justice Ahmed came to the conclusion that the accused had not abused the complainant by caste name in any place within the public view.

The Court also noted that the complainant had not even stated anything about the nature of abuses. Thus, it concluded that allegations do not constitute offence under the Section 3(1)(s) of SC/ST Act

“An offence under the Act, 1989 would be made out when a member of the vulnerable section of the society is subjected to indignities, humiliations and harassment in any place within the public view,” the Court noted.

It also found that independent witnesses had not supported the case of complainant and were not even present inside the house when the alleged incident took place.

“It is further observed that as per his own case, the respondent No.3 [complainant] clearly stated in the F.I.R. and in his statement recorded under Section 161 CrPC that whatever incident took place that took place inside his house, thus, it is not a place within a public view as no outsider was sitting in the room nor anyone has seen the alleged incident,” said the Court.

Looking into the facts of the case, the Court observed that the result and examination of the students is the sole responsibility of the Central Board of School Education (CBSE) and the accused (the school owner), had nothing to do with the process.

It thus remarked that the Magistrate had not applied its judicial mind while taking cognizance in the matter and relied only on the contents of the chargesheet to summon the accused to face trial.

Looking into other allegations against the accused, the Court questioned how Section 143 (unlawful assembly) of Indian Penal Code was invoked in the case.

It found that the incident had occurred inside the complainant’s house where accused and his associates were present.

“Thus, there was no formation of unlawful assembly,” the Court concluded.

On the charge of criminal intimidation against the accused, the Court noted that the allegation against the accused was that he offered ₹5 lakh to the complainant to settle the matter.

The Court, however, found it hard to believe that the accused would offer the amount despite having no authority regarding the declaration of examination results.

“This story as made by the respondent No.3 [complainant] appears to be unbelievable and unacceptable … no independent witness has supported the case that the appellant has committed the offence of criminal intimidation, thus, the ingredients of Section 506 I.P.C. is also not attracted in the present case,” the Court said.

In conclusion, the Court ruled that the incident does not appear to have occurred at all. It accordingly quashed the cognizance as well as summoning order of the trial court.

The Court also quashed the entire case and the connected criminal proceedings against the accused.

Advocates Rakesh Kumar Chaudhary, Nishi Chaudhary and Aditya Pandey represented the petitioner-accused

Advocate Charu Singh represented the prosecution. Advocate Vaibhav Kalia represented the complainant.

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