Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Bharati Dangre, J., allowed a bail application and granted bail to the applicant who was accused of committing the offence of sexual assault on a minor victim.

The preliminary question before the High Court was whether the present application was maintainable because according to S.V. Gavan, APP, since the offence alleged was under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, an appeal would be required to be preferred under Section 14-A of the SC/ST Act.

The Court, however, agreed with the judgments other High Courts cited by Abhijeet A. Desai, counsel for the applicant, wherein it has been held that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, being a special enactment and also a subsequent enactment and containing a non obstante clause, the bar created under Section 14-A of the SC/ST Act would not operate.

Then, considering the main plea in the present application, the Court noted that age of the victim was 15 years 4 months and 23 days and that of the applicant was 21 years. The victim was in a friendly relationship with the accused/ On the date of incident, she accompanied the victim to a lodge where they remained for almost 1.5-2 hours. Considering the victim was a minor, the Court noted that any submission as to the consent of the victim is futile.

It was noted that the accused was in custody since 12th November 2019; investigation was complete and chargesheet has been filed. The Court was of the opinion that on merits, there was no prohibition that applicant could not be released on bail. However, to ensure that the victim is kept away from the applicant so she may depose freely, the applicant was directed to give an undertaking that he will not enter into the jurisdiction of Pune City since the victim is a resident of Pune.

As far as the allegations under the SC/ST Act were concerned, except in a statement of the victim recorded under Section 164 CrPC, where she had disclosed that applicant abused her by mentioning her caste, there was no other material to attract the offences under the SC/ST Act. The Court stated that the effect of the statement under Section 164 CrPC and the content therein and its appreciation would be done at the time of trial. It was not the case of the prosecution that the applicant was aware that the victim belongs to scheduled caste and therefore intentionally he assaulted her sexually, being conscious of this fact. Therefore, perusal of the material in the chargesheet did not prima facie attract the provisions contained in the SC/ST Act.

In such view of the matter, the High Court released the applicant on bail, subject to the conditions imposed. [Suraj S. Paithankar v. State of Maharashtra, Bail Application No. 817 of 2020, dated 3-7-2020]    

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Harnaresh Singh Gill, J.,quashed the criminal proceedings against the appellant accused of using abusive language against the complainant over a phone call in the name of his caste.

Petitions were filed against the order passed by Additional Sessions Judge (Exclusive Court for Heinous Crime against Women), Kurukshetra wherein it was observed that prima facie offence punishable under Section 506 read with Section 34 Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 3 (i) (r), 3 (i) (s) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was made out.

Respondent alleged that petitioners had used abusive language against him on his mobile phone in the name of his caste and also gave threat to kill him.

Complainant alleged that Sandeep Kumar under the influence of Pardeep Kumar said ‘you sister fucker chamaar how dare you take possession from us and fill the firni with soil, we will kill you’. 

Petitioners counsel submitted that allegations made against the petitioners do not fall within the provisions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 as the telephonic call is not in a public view. Hence, the ingredients of offence under the SC/ST Act and Section506/34 IPC are not made out.

Allegations in the present matter were with regard to the usage of caste based remarks over a mobile phone call to the informant, or a member of Scheduled Castes, of which there are no records.

Decision

To constitute the offence under the Act, it must be alleged that the accused intentionally insulted or intimidated with intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or Schedule Tribe in any public place within public view.

In Court’s opinion with regard to the present matter, once it’s admitted that the alleged conversation over the mobile phone was not in a public gaze nor witnessed by any third party, the alleged use of caste words cannot be said to have been committed within the public view.

Court added to its observation that,

Merely uttering such wrong words in the absence of any public view does not show any intention or mens rea to humiliate the complainant who besides being Sarpanch, belongs to Scheduled Caste community.

Basic ingredients of the offence in the FIR are that there must be intentional insult, secondly the insult must be done in a public place within public view, which is not in the present case.

Thus, the essential ingredients which must be fulfilled, are not found in the present case.

Since no offence under Section 3 of the SC & ST Act is found to be made out, the offence under Section 506 IPC read with Section 34 IPC, which stemmed out of the alleged offence under Section 3 of the SC and ST Act, is also not made out. [Pardeep Kumar v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 671 , decided on 14-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: G.K. Ilanthiraiyan, J., allowed a criminal original petition filed by petitioner accused under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The petition was filed for a direction to the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Villupuram to consider petitioner’s bail petition on the same day of his surrender. The petitioner who wanted to surrender and apply for bail in connection with a criminal case registered under the SC/ST Act was represented by C. Prabakaran. While on the other hand, C. Raghavan, Government Advocate appeared for the State.

The High Court while allowing the petition, observed, “In view of the specific bar under Section 18 of SC/ST Act and also taking into consideration of the possibility of misusing the pious intention of the Parliament against innocent persons, there shall be a direction to the Principal District and Sessions Judge to consider the petitioner’s bail application, preferably on the same day of their surrender and pass appropriate orders in accordance with law after affording due opportunity to the victim under Section 15(a) of the SC/ST Act”. The petition was disposed of in the terms above. [Sethu v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Mad 658, dated 04-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.K. Sonawane, J., while reversing the judgment passed by Additional Sessions Judge, allowed pre-arrest bail applications of appellants filed under Section 438 CrPC.

The appellants were accused of assaulting the complainant and abusing him using filthy language while referring to his caste “Adiwasi”. An FIR was lodged and a criminal case was registered under Sections 324, 504, 506 read with Section 34 IPC and under Section 3 (1)(r)(s) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Apprehending arrest by Police, the appellants rushed to the court of Additional Sessions Judge for the relief of anticipatory bail under Section 438 CrPC. However, he rejected all the applications. This order was the subject matter of present appeals.

S.K. Chavan and R.J. Nirmal, Advocates representing the appellants submitted that they were students taking education in Agricultural College who had no concern with the alleged crime and were falsely implicated. Per contra, D.S. Jape, Assistant Public Prosecutor appearing for the State submitted that Section 18-A of SC/ST Act puts an embargo on the Court for exercising powers under Section 438 CrPC.

On perusing the FIR, the High Court was of the view that prima facie, ingredients of Section 3(1)(r)(s) did not match with factual score of the present case. Relying on its earlier decisions, the Court observed, “in spite of bar under Section 18 of the Act of 1989, for invocation of powers under Section 438 of the CrPC, it is still open to this Court to find out by looking to the FIR of the case itself is as to whether prima facie case is made out by the complainant against appellants.” Opining that incriminating circumstances to show that “intentional insult” or “intimidation with intent to humiliate” the complainant within public view on the part of appellants were lacking in this case, the High Court held it to be a fit case where anticipatory bail may be granted to them. Hence, the impugned order was quashed and the appeals were allowed. [Krishna v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 341, decided on 27-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The Bench of S.H. Vora, J. allowed an appeal under Section 14-A of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 whereby the appellant–original accused challenged the order passed by the Sessions Judge, whereby, the  Sessions Judge had refused to grant anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Counsel for the respondent stated that the text of the SMS messages between the parties prima facie indicated that there was a commission of offence under the provisions of the said Act and, therefore, no discretionary powers should be exercised against the appellant.

The Court, while relying on the case of Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre v. State of Maharashtra, (2011) 1 SCC 694, held that since the substantial investigation was over and no any other offence was registered the appeal should be allowed. [Pratikkumar Rajeshbhai Patel v. State Of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 137, Order dated 24-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Narayan Singh Dhanik, J. partly allowed a petition as a prima facie case was made out against the accused.

The applicant has prayed for quashing the Criminal Case filed under Sections 147, 148, 149, 452, 504, 323, 427 IPC and one under Section 3(1)x of the SC/ST Act.

The respondent through his counsel Pratiropp Pandey has filed an FIR by alleging that the applicant armed with a sword, pistol and lathi entered into his house and hurled abuses and caste indicating words “Neech” and “Chamar” and also assaulted him as well as his brother along with looting articles from his house. The applicant through his counsel Amit Kapri has contended that the provisions of the SC/ST Act were not attracted in this case as the FIR nowhere states that that the applicant does not belong Scheduled Caste or the Scheduled Tribe and that they intentionally insulted or intimidated the complainant and his brother with intent to humiliate them in a place within public view.

The Court here was of the view that the basic element needed to prosecute the applicant was missing here and thus the offence under the SC/ST Act cannot be sustained nonetheless the rest of the claim stood allowed.[Mahendra Bhatt v. State of Uttarakhand,2018 SCC OnLine Utt 1022, decided on 14-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Birendra Kumar, J. granted bail to a person accused under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act) having regard to the inordinate delay in conclusion of trial.

The appellant was an accused in an offence that related to the carnage in which a number of persons were butchered to death. A case was registered against him under Sections 147, 148, 149, 341, 324, 307, 120B, 302 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 27 of the Arms Act, Section 3 of the Explosive Substance Act and Section 3(2)(5) of the SC/ST Act. Aggrieved by an order of the trial judge refusing grant of regular bail to him, he preferred the instant appeal under Section 14-A (2) of the SC/ST Act.

It was noted that the report of the learned trial Judge revealed the case to be at the stage of prosecution evidence but no witness had turned up till the date of hearing of the present appeal.

Submission on behalf of the appellant was that he was not named in the first information report (FIR) and the informant in his further statement had disclosed the name of one Abhinash Sharma who faced trial and was convicted. Thereafter, there was no occasion to implicate another Abhinash Sharma, i.e., the appellant.

Considering the fact that the appellant had been in custody since the last eleven years and no prosecution witness had been examined during the trial, the court observed that it was highly unlikely that the trial would be concluded in the near future. Hence, the appeal was allowed directing the appellant to be released on bail on furnishing bail bond of Rs. 20,000.[Avinash Sharma v. State of Bihar,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 2017, decided on 06-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: A Single judge bench comprising of Birendra Kumar, J. allowed the plea for anticipatory bail of a person apprehending arrest under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act), on the ground of inconsistencies in statements of prosecution.

A police case was registered inter alia for poisoning the cow of a person who was purportedly the informant of offences committed by appellant under Sections 341, 323, 429, 506, 504 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860  as well as Sections 3(i)(x) of the SC/ST Act. The instant appeal was preferred under Section 14-A(2) of the SC/ST Act against trial court’s order refusing appellant’s prayer for grant of anticipatory bail.

The High Court noted that there were inconsistencies in statements made by the informant in first information report (FIR) and that of his daughter as recorded in the case diary. Informant was not the eyewitness of the occurrence alleged. His daughter was examined by the police and her statement recorded in case diary did not contain the name of the appellant. Rather, she had alleged some unknown persons to have poisoned the cow of the informant. Informant’s daughter had not supported other allegations disclosed in the FIR.

In view of the above, the appeal was allowed and anticipatory bail was granted to the appellant in the event of his arrest, subject to the condition of full cooperation in the investigation/trial of the case, failing which trial court would be at liberty to cancel his bail bond.[Brihaspati Sah v. State of Bihar,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 1994, decided on 02-11-2018]

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Supreme Court:  Attorney General KK Venugopal, seeking stay on the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST Act, said that the Court cannot make rules or guidelines which go against the law passed by the legislature. He said that  the SC/ST verdict had resulted in loss of life and hence, the matter should be referred to a larger bench.

The Bench of AK Goel and UU Lalit, JJ, however, said that it was 100 per cent in favour of protecting the rights of these communities and punishing those guilty of atrocities against them. It said that while deciding on the verdict on the SC/ST Act, it had considered every aspect and all the judgments before reaching a conclusion.

The Centre had moved the Supreme Court on April 2 seeking review of its judgement by which safeguards were put on the provisions for immediate arrest under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Centre said that the verdict has “diluted” the stringent provisions of the Act, resulting in great damage to the country by causing anger and a sense of disharmony among the people.

Several states were rocked by wide spread violence and clashes following a ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by several SC/ST organisations protesting the top court’s March 20 order, that claimed eight lives. While hearing the Centre’s review petition on April 3, the Court had asserted that “no provisions of SC/ST Act have been diluted” and clarified that additional safeguards had been put in place “to protect the fundamental rights” of innocents. The Court said:

“A perusal of the order of this Court makes it clear that there is no bar to compensation or other immediate relief being given to the victim member of the SC/ST as per the provisions noted above without any delay whatsoever. There is also no bar to registration of F.I.R. under any provision of the penal code or any other law and the offences under the SC/ST Act being added later, if necessary. Thus, there is no dilution of any provision of the SC/ST Act relating to compensation, trial, punishment or otherwise.”

The Court has refused to stay the March 20 verdict till it decided the Centre’s review petition.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: While disposing off the present appeal wherein the appellant was charged under Section 3(2)(va) and 3(1)(d) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the Bench of J.P. Gupta, J., reiterated the recent Supreme Court decision in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 323, holding that a police officer, who intends to arrest a person, who is not a government servant and is accused of the offence punishable under the 1989 Act, such arrest should be made with prior approval of the S.S.P concerned, only after recording the reasons of arrest in writing.

As per the facts, the appellant was the owner of the bus on which the complainant was working as a Driver. It was alleged that when the complainant demanded arrears of salary, he was abused publicly by referring to his caste. The Complainant belongs to the Scheduled Tribe community. The appellant’s counsel Harshwardhan Singh Rajput refuted the allegations and prayed before the Court to issue directions in sync with the guidelines laid down in the aforementioned Supreme Court judgment.

On perusal of the facts, the Court observed that there is no evidence to show that the FIR against the appellant was filed with malafide intentions, therefore the appellant is not entitled to get anticipatory bail. The Court however also noted that the nature of the offence is not very severe and prima facie, the appellant’s arrest is not warranted for the purpose of investigation and his presence may be secured during trial by directing him to appear before the Magistrate/Court concerned in case of filing of the charge-sheet. Furthermore the Court stated that an accused, who is not entitled to get the benefit of anticipatory bail, cannot be denied the protection available under the law with regard to unjustified and unwarranted arrest, as before arresting an accused, it is the duty of the police officer to examine and record the reasons of arrest in writing subject to scrutiny of the Magistrate/Court. [Ajeet Jain v. State of Madhya Pradesh,2018 SCC OnLine MP 327, decided on 04-04-2018]