SC: Offence u/ SC/ST Act is not established merely because informant is SC/ST

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 5th November 2020, in the matter of Hitesh Verma v. The State of Uttarakhand held that offence under the SC/ST Act is not established merely on the fact that the informant is a member of Scheduled Caste unless there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

The long title of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, to provide for Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.  (Para 9)

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was enacted to improve the social economic conditions of the vulnerable sections of the society as they have been subjected to various offences such as indignities, humiliations and harassment. They have been deprived of life and property as well. The object of the Act is thus to punish the violators who inflict indignities, humiliations and harassment and commit the offence as defined under Section 3 of the Act. The Act is thus intended to punish the acts of the upper caste against the vulnerable section of the society for the reason that they belong to a particular community. (Para 10)

The basic ingredients of the offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and 2) in any place within public view”. (Para 12)

The offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 would indicate the ingredient of intentional insult and intimidation with an intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe. All insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offence under the Act unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. The object of the Act is to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as they are denied number of civil rights. Thus, an offence under the Act would be made out when a member of the vulnerable section of the Society is subjected to indignities, humiliations and harassment. (Para 13)

Offence under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is not established merely on the fact that the informant is a member of Scheduled Caste unless there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste. (Para 18)

When the allegation of hurling of abuses is against a person who claims title over the property. If such person happens to be a Scheduled Caste, the offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the SC/ST Act is not made out. (This inference has been drawn on the basis of Para 18)

Copy of judgment: Judgement_05-Nov-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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