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Charges made against an accused in such cases should be outlined if not in the FIR, then at least in the charge sheet, to enable a special court to take a full and complete view of the matter before putting the accused to trial, said the court.
The Supreme Court has said that every abuse made against a member of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes in public view cannot fall under the category of offences under the Atrocities Act, unless it is laced with casteist remarks.
The apex court also held that it is desirable that charges made against an accused in such cases should be outlined if not in the FIR, then at least in the charge sheet, to enable a special court to take a full and complete view of the matter before putting the accused to trial.
"If one calls another an idiot (bewaqoof) or a fool (murkh) or a thief (chor) in any place within public view, this would obviously constitute an act intended to insult or humiliate by user of abusive or offensive language. Even if the same be directed generally to a person, who happens to be a Scheduled Caste or Tribe, per se, it may not be sufficient to attract section 3(1)(x) unless such words are laced with casteist remarks," a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta said.
The court also highlighted that since section 18 of the SC/ST Act bars invocation of the court’s jurisdiction under section 438, CrPC and having regard to the overriding effect of the SC/ST Act over other laws, it is desirable that before an accused is subjected to a trial for alleged commission of offence under section 3(1)(x), the utterances made by him in any place within public view are outlined, if not in the FIR (which is not required to be an encyclopaedia of all facts and events), but at least in the charge-sheet (which is prepared based either on statements of witnesses recorded in course of investigation or otherwise) so as to enable the court to ascertain whether the charge sheet makes out a case of an offence under the SC/ST Act having been committed for forming a proper opinion in the conspectus of the situation before it, prior to taking cognisance of the offence.
The top court allowed an appeal filed by Ramesh Chandra Vaishya against the Allahabad HC's order of May 23, 2022 refusing to quash an FIR lodged against him under various provisions of the IPC and section 3(1)(x), the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
"Even for the limited test that has to be applied in a case of the present nature, the charge sheet dated 21st January, 2016 does not make out any case of an offence having been committed by the appellant under section 3(1)(x) warranting him to stand a trial," the bench said.
After going through the facts and circumstances of the case, the bench said, "We have little hesitation in holding that even though the appellant might have abused the complainant but such abuse by itself and without anything more does not warrant subjecting the appellant to face a trial, particularly in the clear absence of the ingredient of intentional insult of such a degree that it could provoke a person to break public peace or commit any other offence".
It said that the high court misdirected itself in failing to appreciate the challenge to the criminal proceedings including the chargesheet in the proper perspective and occasioned a grave failure of justice in rejecting such challenge.
"We unhesitatingly hold that it would be an abuse of the process of law to allow continuation of criminal proceedings," the bench added.
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