Tis Hazari Court
Case BriefsDistrict Court

   

West, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi: In a case wherein it is alleged that the accused committed the offence punishable under Section 509 of Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), as the accused started hurling abuses in a filthy language and started to quarrel with the complainant, Devanshu Sajlan, J., held that the court cannot presume that the filthy/ abusive language used amounted to insulting the modesty of the complainant and the prosecution was required to prove the same.

An FIR was registered under Section 509 IPC, and post investigation on finding a prima facie case against accused, notice under section 509 IPC was served in terms of section 251 Criminal Procedure Code.

The Court remarked that even if the version of the prosecution is believed to be true, it appears that there was a quarrel between the parties related to leakage of water, which led to use of alleged abusive language by the accused. The alleged abusive language appears to have been made in the context of a quarrel/ fight and there is no evidence on record that the said language was used with any sexual overtones.

Placing reliance on Abhijeet J.K. v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 703 the gravamen of Section 509 IPC is the intent to ‘insult the modesty’ of a woman. It is a settled position of law that there is distinction between an act of merely insulting a woman and an act of insulting the modesty of a woman. In order to attract section 509 IPC, merely insulting a woman is not sufficient and insult to the modesty of a woman is required to have been done.

The term ‘modesty’ was defined by Supreme Court in Raju Pandurang Mahale v. State of Maharashtra, (2004) 4 SCC 371, as the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex, i.e., modesty is a virtue which attaches to a female owing to her sex. Thus, the Court noted that the ultimate test for ascertaining whether modesty has been outraged is whether the action of the offender is such as could be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman, keeping in mind that the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex.

Keeping in view, that in criminal law, the burden of proof on the prosecution is that of beyond reasonable doubt, in the present case, the prosecution has failed to prove or bring on record the nature of alleged abuses hurled at the complainant as the only allegation made is that when she visited the accused to complain about leakage of water from AC, “the accused started abusing her in very filthy language and started quarrelling with her, which is not sufficient.

Relying on the definition of “verbal abuse” given in Black’s Law Dictionary (9th edn.), it does not include ‘insults’ within its meaning and cannot be equated with insult to modesty of a woman. The Court observed that it cannot presume that the filthy/ abusive language used amounted to insulting the modesty of the complainant especially when the prosecution has failed to bring on record the nature and wording of insults which were hurled towards the complainant.

The Court held that the prosecution was required to prove the offence under Section 509 IPC beyond reasonable doubt, which the prosecution has failed to do as Apart from the allegation of usage of abusive/ filthy language, there is nothing specific on record which points towards the guilt of the accused.

[State v. Ankit Shukla, 2022 SCC OnLine Dis Crt (Del) 45, decided on 30-09-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Vijay Dagar, Ld. APP, Advocate, for the State;

Aditya Kale, Ld., Advocate, Counsel for the accused.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

Hot Off The PressNews

Editors Guild of India urges Chief Minister of Kerala to withdraw disturbing amendment to Kerala Police Act 118 A immediately, which provides for up to three years of punishment for publication of material with an intention to intimidate, insult, or defame any person through social media.

Although Government has placed the amendment on hold until discussed by the state assembly and has given an assurance to Kerala High Court that the state police will no take any adverse actions, but the ordinance is still in force and has the potential for grave misuse and should be withdrawn forthwith.

The amendment to the Kerala Police Act would deeply hurt the cause of free speech and freedom of press as it gives unbridled powers to the police to target political opposition and the press in the name of monitoring content on social media.

Editor Guil reiterates immediate withdrawal of this section 118 A of the Police Act.


Editors Guild of India

[Press Release dt. 24-11-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where abuses were hurled by a person of upper caste at a person belonging to Scheduled Caste due to a property dispute between them, the 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta* and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has held that no offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is made out as the allegations of hurling of abuses is against a person who claims title over the property and not on account of them being a member of the Scheduled Caste.

“The property disputes between a vulnerable section of the society and a person of upper caste will not disclose any offence under the Act unless, the allegations are on account of the victim being a Scheduled Caste.”


Backstory


An FIR was registered against the appellants in the present case under Section 3(1)(r) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 for using castes’ remarks/abuses against the applicant  (the respondent no. 2 herein). It was alleged that the appellant and his family were from past 6 months are not allowing the respondent no. 2 to work on her fields. An excerpt from the FIR reads,

“On 10.12.2019 at around 10 am, all these persons entered illegally in to four walls of her building and started hurling abuses on myself and my labourers and gave death threats and used castes’ remarks/abuses and took away the construction material such as Cement, Iron, Rod, Bricks.”

The appellant, on the other hand, contended that the disputes relating to the property were pending before the Civil Court and that, the aforementioned FIR was filed on patently false grounds only to harass the appellant and to abuse of process of law.


Analysis


Highlighting the object behind the enactment of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the Court noticed that considering the social economic conditions of the vulnerable sections of the society as they have been subjected to various offences such as indignities, humiliation, harassment, deprivation of life and property, the Act was enacted to punish the acts of the upper caste against the vulnerable section of the society for the reason that they belong to a particular community.

Insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe

The offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act indicates the ingredient of intentional insult and intimidation with an intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe.

“All insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offence under the Act unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.”

It held that the offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act is not established merely on the fact that the informant is a member of Scheduled Caste unless there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such caste.

Considering the facts of the case, the Court said that the assertion of title over the land by either of the parties is not due to either the indignities, humiliations or harassment.  Stating that every citizen has a right to avail their remedies in accordance with law, the Court said,

“… if the appellant or his family members have invoked jurisdiction of the civil court, or that respondent no. 2 has invoked the jurisdiction of the civil court, then the parties are availing their remedies in accordance with the procedure established by law. Such action is not for the reason that respondent No.2 is member of Scheduled Caste.”

Insult or intimidation in “any place within public view”

The Court also took note of another key ingredient of Section 3(1)(r) of the Act i.e. insult or intimidation in “any place within public view”. It referred to the judgment in Swaran Singh v. State, (2008) 8 SCC 435 where a distinction was drawn between the expression “public place” and “in any place within public view”. It was held that

“… if an offence is committed outside the building e.g. in a lawn outside a house, and the lawn can be seen by someone from the road or lane outside the boundary wall, then the lawn would certainly be a place within the public view. On the contrary, if the remark is made inside a building, but some members of the public are there (not merely relatives or friends) then it would not be an offence since it is not in the public view.”

Coming back to the facts of the case, the Court noticed that as per the FIR, the allegations of abusing the informant were within the four walls of her building and there was no member of the public (not merely relatives or friends) at the time of the incident in the house. Therefore, it was held.

“… the basic ingredient that the words were uttered “in any place within public view” is not made out.”


Conclusion


The Court concluded that the appellant and others were not permitting respondent No.2 to cultivate the land for the last six months as there is a dispute about the possession of the land which is the subject matter of civil dispute between the parties as per respondent No.2 herself.  Since the matter is regarding possession of property pending before the Civil Court, any dispute arising on account of possession of the said property would not disclose an offence under the Act unless the victim is abused, intimated or harassed only for the reason that she belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

It also clarified that the finding that the appellant was aware of the caste of the informant is wholly inconsequential as the knowledge does not bar, any person to protect his rights by way of a procedure established by law.

It was, hence, held that the charges against the appellant under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act were not made out.

[Hitesh Verma v. State of Uttarakhand, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 907, decided on 05.11.2020]


*Justice Hemant Gupta has penned this judgment