New Delhi: SC/ST (prevention of atrocities) Act 1989 are believed to be quite stringent and have been used in cases of caste discrimination and atrocities. However, the court judgments in these cases have weakened its implementation and used the loopholes in the cases to relieve the accused. Recent judgments by Punjab and Haryana high court and Madhya Pradesh High Court have stacked the cards against the Victims of caste discrimination and the activists who fight on their behalf.
SC/ST Act Not Applicable in Closed Spaces; Court Judgements that Deal a Blow to Fight Against Caste Discrimination.
Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that all the insults and intimidation to person would not be an offence under the SC/ST Act if it has not been made within public view or at any public space.
Justice Deepak Gupta was hearing a petition filed by Rajinder kaur against the judgment of Ludhiana court, which had upheld the charges of SC/ST act against the accused.
The court cited the Hitesh Sharma vs State of Uttarakhand judgment of 2020 in which the apex court held that insulting or intimidating a person belonging to SC/ST community will not be counted as a offence under the Act if the insult of SC-ST person is within the House premises or four wall of House.
Meanwhile, the Madhya Pradesh High Court struck down a criminal case under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act) since the alleged offence took place in a staff room, which the Court said was not a public place [Ashutosh Tiwari vs The State Of Madhya Pradesh].
The Court held that Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act penalises intentional insult or intimidation of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place "within the public view."
The order further stated “It is clear that offence shall be committed in a public view to make out an offence under Section Section 3(1)(x) of SC & ST (POA) Act. Staff room is not a place within public view, therefore, no offence under Section 3(1)(x) of SC & ST (POA) Act is made out against petitioners,
Earlier in 2020, the same Punjab and Haryana high court had ruled in a judgment that a casteist remark against a member of the Scheduled Caste community, which is made over a phone call, does not constitute an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The order was passed by Justice Harnesh Singh Gill while hearing a case under IPC and SC/ST act in which the petitioner Sandeep Kumar and Pradeep Kumar had allegedly used abusive language against one Rajinder Kumar of Kurukshetra. Harnesh Singh Gill set aside the FIR, chargesheet and framing of charges against the petitioners Sandeep and Pradeep persons from Kurukshetra in Haryana.
Speaking to The Mooknayak Advocate Rajat Kalsan from Hisar, who has assiduously litigated SC/ST cases in courts pointed out the loop holes “ Section 3 (1)( R) and 3 (1 )(S) mention that the place where the member of SC/ST community has been insulted must be within the public view and there should be public, my opinion is that there should be an amendment in this act as it has loopholes. Even if one person is present In the room apart from the complainant and the accused, it should qualify as a case under SC/ST (Prevention of atrocities Act), it should also not matter that the third person present there is a relative or friend of the complainant. He pointed out that the sections 3 (1) (R) and 3 (1) (S) are inspired by IPC 294, which prohibits obscene gestures, songs in public space and therefore the provisions of the SC/ST Act must be tailored in adherence to technicalities of caste discrimination.
The Mooknayak also spoke to Satish Kumar of the Centre for Dalit Rights, Jaipur, he observed both the judgments and said “The verdict of the Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh high Court is against the legal tenets as the case was registered in 2010 and the verdict is coming after 13 years, so the justice has already been delayed and hence denied in the case secondly in the judgment the court has ruled that the staffroom is not under public view but the fact is that staffroom is a public space if you read the Swaran Singh Judgement which defines public place as the place where someone can see others. So, I think the Madhya Pradesh government should file a review petition and get this judgment set aside which has quashed the petition 482."
"Mentioning the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which ruled on similar lines, he said that in 2015 section 8 (C) was added which says that if the accused knows that the victim belongs to SC/ST then the court will self-presume, but the judgment does not mention 8 (C). The other thing is that the case pertains to section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and if it is a case of 302 then it is also a case under 325 of the IPC but the investigation officer has surprisingly not invoked 325 and it is a violation of 325 (A) which says that any crime that causes bodily hurt must invoke 325 of the IPC.”