Mere mention of an allegation in the FIR that the complainant was referred to with caste-based remarks is not enough to take cognisance of the offence made under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (commonly known as the SC/ST Act), the Allahabad High Court has ruled.
The order came as a single judge bench of Justice Manoj Misra set aside the charges made under SC/ST Act in an FIR registered at Kotwali police station in Saharanpur district in 2014.
A chargesheet in connection with the FIR has already been filed.
As per the allegations levelled in the FIR, registered by one Shiv Dayal, he was intercepted and abused and threatened outside his residence by three persons — Gurbaksh Singh (82), Prem Singh (76) and Raja Maheshwari — during which the accused had allegedly used caste-based remarks.
The FIR was registered on August 26, 2014, at Kotwali police station under Sections 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 (1) (x) (intentional insult or intimidation with intent to humiliate a member of the Scheduled Caste of Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view) of the SC/ST Act. The chargesheet was filed on October 31 last year.
Petitioners — Gurbaksh Singh and two others — through their counsel, Raj Kumar Khanna, approached the High Court with a prayer to quash the proceedings and also set aside the chargesheet.
While setting aside the charges under SC/ST Act, the court partly allowed the petition on April 27.
“Mere allegation in the FIR that caste-related abuses were hurled without specifically disclosing as to what caste-related abuses were hurled… whether they were hurled with a view to humiliate a member of the scheduled caste in public view, the offence punishable under Section 3 (1) (x) of the SC/ST Act cannot be said to have been made out…to enable the court to take cognisance,” the court said.
The court, however, made it clear that “if during the course of trial evidence comes from which an offence punishable under SC/ST Act is made out,” it will take cognisance and proceed accordingly.
The court also gave four weeks to the petitioners to present themselves before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (Saharanpur), where the proceedings are going on, while keeping in abeyance the
operation of non-bailable warrants issued against them in the case.
Petitioner’s counsel Raj Kumar Khanna said: “Our argument was that neither in the FIR, nor in the statements made under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the complainant made any specific allegation about caste-based remarks.
“Therefore, we cited Supreme Court orders to argue that mere allegations could not constitute a cognizable offence.”
Petitioners claimed that the FIR was result of a long standing property dispute and they had been implicated in order to settle scores by the other party.