Thursday, February 22, 2024

Orissa High Court quashes charges under SC/ST Act against 2 persons, observes no proof to say victim insulted on the basis of caste

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The High Court of Orissa has set aside the charges levelled under Section 3 of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against two people, accused of insulting a Scheduled Caste person, on the basis of his caste.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice R.K. Pattanaik observed that if a person was abused with the name of his caste or the caste was uttered suddenly in the course of events during an incident, it would not by itself attract an offence under the SC/ST (PoA) Act, unless the intention to insult or humiliate the victim for the reason that he belonged to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe was prima facie established.

The High Court referred to the Supreme Court order in the Hitesh Verma vs State of Uttarakhand and Another case, wherein the Apex Court had held that an offence under the SC/ST Act would not be established without there being any intention to humiliate the victim on account of his or her caste.

The Single-Judge Bench further noted the person stated to have been verbally abused by the petitioners on account of his caste had not lodged the case.

As per the prosecution, the complainant was returning home in 2017, when he was abused in filthy language, assaulted and terrorised by the petitioners-accused. This led to others arriving at the spot and trying to intervene to rescue the complainant. 

The victim (who belonged to a Scheduled Caste) was one among such interveners. One of the petitioners allegedly criminally intimidated the victim and cast aspersions on his caste, it said.

The Bench observed that it was too much of a stretch and unjustified to assume that the petitioners had intended to insult or humiliate the victim on the basis of his caste.

While quashing the SC/ST Act charges, the High Court, however, declined to set aside other charges levelled against the petitioners in the matter under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which included causing hurt and criminal intimidation.

(Ajay Pattanaik @ Ajaya Kumar and Another vs State of Odisha and Another)

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