Casteist remark made in person’s absence not an offence,says HC

Bombay High Court has recently held that a casteist remark made against a person in his absence would not amount to an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act),1989.

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Mumbai | Updated: April 8, 2014 1:16 pm

The Bombay High Court has recently held that a casteist remark made against a person in his absence would not amount to an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act),1989.

“Such utterances may exhibit a feeling of contempt in the mind of the person who has become vocal. It may reflect his mind,notions and feelings,harbouring contempt and discourtesy,but would not render such person,ipso facto an offender,qua the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989,” Justice A H Joshi wrote in his judgment.

Silvasa resident Mohanbhai Delkar had appealed against the decision of a trial court that held that an offence under the Act was not made out against Lalit Patel,who allegedly abused Delkar over his caste in his absence. According to Delkar,the utterances of Patel would amount to an offence under Section 3 (1) (x) of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act even though he was not present when they were made.

Under the Section,a person — not belonging to Scheduled Castes or Tribes — who “intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of an SC or an ST community in any place within public view” attracts a minimum imprisonment of six months and a maximum of five years.

The HC was of the view that plain reading of the Section would show that “the insult or intimidation has to be on the face of the victim ‘viva voce’ and in public view. If the abusive words over caste etc are uttered behind back,it could be anything but may not be the offence defined under Section 3(1)(x) of the SC and the ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989”.

Concurring with the view of the trial court,Justice Joshi noted in his observation that “since the incident of alleged act of insult had not taken place in presence of the complainant,it would be too far stretching to envelope within Clause (x) of Section 3(1) the utterances made in absence of the victim”.

The prosecution had examined five witnesses. The court observed that the case rested mainly on the testimony of one witness. Regarding the worthiness of his testimony,the HC said the finding recorded by the trial judge is not open for re-appreciation by appellate court for taking recourse to second opinion of same evidence.

“Once,the point of view resorted to by the learned trial judge is seen to be a possible view and thereupon the learned trial judge declined to order conviction,such a judgment is not open for substitution by any other point of view or finding so long the findings are not shown to be perverse,” Justice Joshi said in his order.

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