Do All Insults Come Under the Ambit of SC/ST Act as Offence?

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Introduction

The Honourable Supreme court of India held that all insults or intimidation are not an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, unless it is made based on the caste of the victim.

Aim and Premise of the SC &ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

The core reason for this Act is to prevent members of the Scheduled tribe and Scheduled Caste from insults and intimidations. It prevents the offence of atrocities against these members. This Act also provides Special courts for trial if any such offences have taken place. And it also provides relief and rehabilitation to the victims of such offences and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

The object of the Act is to punish the violators who inflict indignities, humiliations, and harassment.

Basic Ingredients of the Offence

The basic ingredient of the offence under Section- 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 can be classified as 1) Intentional insults or intimidations with intent to humiliate a member of SC/ST, 2) that insult or intimidation must be done in any place with the public view.

SC/ST Act Used for Blackmail

The SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which protects the members of SC and ST has become an instrument to “blackmail”, said the Supreme court. While hearing the case, the honourable Supreme court held that public servants could only be arrested with the written permission of their appointed authority.

It also stated that, over the last 3 decades, the number of cases registered under the said act has increased. And it has been used by members of SC and ST to get revenge because of vengeance. It made clear that a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before filing an FIR against a person under the said Act.

The 1989 Act penalizes casteist insults and denies anticipatory bail to suspected offenders. So, there is a chance of robbing personal liberty merely on the unilateral statement provided by the member of SC/ST. Hence, the top court held that, if the accused can prove the complaint registered against him is malafide, then an anticipatory bail shall be provided.

There are cases where persons belonging to ST/SC uses this Act with malafide intention. But, simultaneously, there has been a rise in the number of offences against SC and ST individuals nowadays. As per the reports of NCRB, there has been a 7% and 26% increase in crime against SC and ST respectively in the year 2019 compared to 2018.

Hitesh Verma V. State of Uttarakhand

In this case, the victim (belonging to Scheduled caste) is a resident of Pithoragarh. she was abused by a group of persons (belonging to upper caste) for 6 months at her residence. On 10.12.2019, all the accused persons entered the house of the victim and abused her with filthy words. They mentioned her caste and gave death threats to the victim, her husband, and her family. They also took away some properties belonging to the victim from her house.

On 11.12.2019 an FIR was lodged against these accused persons under Section- 452, 504, 506, and Section- 3(1)(x) and 3(1)(e) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

On 6th November 2020, the Honourable Supreme court of India after analyzing the facts held that insults or intimidations to a person would not be an offence under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. It held that it was essential to establish that there was an intention to humiliate to commit an offence under the said Act. But it is also important that such humiliation is done in any public place with the public view.

As said, in this case, the accused persons abused the victim inside her house; the said act is not an offence under the SC/ST Act. Meaning thereby, the accused persons abused the victim inside four walls which is not a public place with no public view. Therefore, the essentials of the said act are not attracted; hence the offence cannot attract the SC/ST Act.

After analyzing the facts and ingredients, the Honourable Supreme court quashed the charges under the SC/ST Act.

Conclusion

All insults and intimidations of a person belonging to the SC/ST community will not attract the SC/ST Act, 1989 unless those insults and intimidations are done on account of the victim belonging to SC/ST. It is mandatory to satisfy the essentials to attract SC & ST Act.


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