Friday, 20 November 2020

Supreme Court: An intention to publicly humiliate a person of SC/ST category necessary for the applicability of the SC & ST (Atrocities), Act

 It may be stated that the charge-sheet filed is for an offence Under Section 3(1)(x) of the Act. The said Section stands substituted by Act No. 1 of 2016 w.e.f. 26.1.2016. The substituted corresponding provision is Section 3(1)(r) which reads as under:


3(1)(r) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view;


12. The basic ingredients of the offence Under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act can be classified as "1) 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".


13. The offence Under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act 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. 


14. Another key ingredient of the provision is insult or intimidation in "any place within public view". What is to be regarded as "place in public view" had come up for consideration before this Court in the judgment reported as Swaran Singh and Ors. v. State through Standing Counsel and Ors. MANU/SC/7954/2008 : (2008) 8 SCC 435. The Court had drawn distinction between the expression "public place" and "in any place within public view". It was held that if an offence is committed outside the building e.g. in a lawn outside a house, and the lawn can be seen by someone from the road or lane outside the boundary wall, then the lawn would certainly be a place within the public view. On the contrary, if the remark is made inside a building, but some members of the public are there (not merely relatives or friends) then it would not be an offence since it is not in the public view. The Court held as under:


28. It has been alleged in the FIR that Vinod Nagar, the first informant, was insulted by Appellants 2 and 3 (by calling him a "chamar") when he stood near the car which was parked at the gate of the premises. In our opinion, this was certainly a place within public view, since the gate of a house is certainly a place within public view. It could have been a different matter had the alleged offence been committed inside a building, and also was not in the public view. However, if the offence is committed outside the building e.g. in a lawn outside a house, and the lawn can be seen by someone from the road or lane outside the boundary wall, the lawn would certainly be a place within the public view. Also, even if the remark is made inside a building, but some members of the public are there (not merely relatives or friends) then also it would be an offence since it is in the public view. We must, therefore, not confuse the expression "place within public view" with the expression "public place". A place can be a private place but yet within the public view. On the other hand, a public place would ordinarily mean a place which is owned or leased by the Government or the municipality (or other local body) or gaon sabha or an instrumentality of the State, and not by private persons or private bodies.


15. As per the FIR, the allegations of abusing the informant were within the four walls of her building. It is not the case of the informant that there was any member of the public (not merely relatives or friends) at the time of the incident in the house. Therefore, the basic ingredient that the words were uttered "in any place within public view" is not made out. In the list of witnesses appended to the charge-sheet, certain witnesses are named but it could not be said that those were the persons present within the four walls of the building. The offence is alleged to have taken place within the four walls of the building. Therefore, in view of the judgment of this Court in Swaran Singh, it cannot be said to be a place within public view as none was said to be present within the four walls of the building as per the FIR and/or charge-sheet.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Criminal Appeal No. 707 of 2020

Decided On: 05.11.2020

 Hitesh Verma Vs.  The State of Uttarakhand and Ors.


Hon'ble Judges/Coram:

L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi, JJ.

Citation: MANU/SC/0843/2020.

Read full Judgment here: Click here

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