The Delhi Police’s contention that a man could not have used caste-based slurs against a St Stephen’s student because the two did not know each other cut no ice with a city court, which took it upon itself to invoke the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act) against the accused. The case dates back to January 2, when a 19-year-old Dalit boy studying in St Stephen’s College had alleged he was assaulted by a man who also used casteist slurs against him, following an accident in Karawal Nagar. The victim is the son of an Assistant Sub-Inspector.
As first reported by The Indian Express, the case generated controversy after the Investigating Officer (IO) asked the 19-year-old, Jatin, to bring “two independent witnesses from a higher caste” to invoke the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the accused. Police later revoked the notice and changed the IO. Senior police officers also said no witnesses were required to invoke the Act.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (northeast) Saurabh Partap Singh Laler said that Jatin, in his “very first complaint”, had alleged that casteist slurs were used by the accused, and that there was no reason to believe he would make false allegations “uneccessarily”.
After registering an FIR, Delhi Police had booked the accused under IPC sections pertaining to rash driving and voluntarily causing hurt, among others. However, they had refused to invoke the SC/ST Act even though the FIR stated caste-based slurs were used. Later, when Jatin approached police about this, a notice was served to him to bring two “high caste witnesses”.
The notice stated: “To verify the authenticity of your statement, two independent witnesses belonging to high caste should be produced…”
The court stated that according to records, Jatin, in his first complaint to police, had alleged that the accused made casteist remarks, but an FIR was not lodged under provisions of the SC/ST Act. “As a result, the investigation was marked to ASI Harbir Singh, and not to the ACP. Finally, after arrest and bail of accused, the investigation was marked by DCP to the ACP. The ACP has filed the present chargesheet… accused has not been chargesheeted for offences under the SC/ST Act,” the court said.
According to court records, the Delhi Police’s argument for not invoking the SC/ST Act is that the complainant was not known to the accused. Further, police claimed that two witnesses had stated they “never heard” such remarks at the spot.
However, the court said, “These two witnesses have been examined twice… and in both statements, they have stated nothing about the manner in which the accident took place — who was at fault/negligent. However, they testified that the accused never made any casteist remarks regarding the complainant.”
The court said that these witnesses may not have heard casteist remarks as they seemed to have reached the spot after the accident. “The question before the court is whether the charges under SC/ST Act can be dropped on the basis of testimony of these witnesses or not. In the opinion of the court, the answer is no,” the court said. The next date of hearing is September 11.