Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Sandeep Mehta and Abhay Chaturvedi, JJ. contemplated an appeal where the appellant had been convicted and sentenced under Sections 363 and 376 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 3(2)(v) of SC/ST Act i.e. commission of any offence under the IPC punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more against a person or property [knowing that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member], shall be punishable with imprisonment for life and with fine.

Minimal facts relevant for proper appreciation of the case are that one Asha Bhai lodged an FIR against the appellant for alleged rape and kidnapping of the minor granddaughter of the complainant. Complainant, victim and the appellant were travelling to Ahmedabad when the appellant alleged drugged Asha and when he regained her consciousness there was no trace of the minor victim and the appellant. Subsequently, an investigation was conducted and charge-sheet was filed. Appellant was charged under various Sections of IPC and under Section 3(1) (xii) of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. As the charge under SC\ST Act was added the case was duly transferred to the Special Judge for trial. After the trial, the Judge convicted the appellant, hence the instant appeal was preferred.

The counsel for the appellant, Pradeep Shah, submitted that judgment passed by the trial court was bad in the eyes of law. He urged that there was no allegation of any of the prosecution witnesses that the accused kidnapped or subjected the victim to rape with the intention of committing offence on a member of the Scheduled Caste community. He further argued that the conviction of the accused of the offence under Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Act was prima facie illegal. It was further submitted that the victim was not a minor and there was no proper evidence to prove otherwise. It was contended that the alleged victim resided with her own will and never protested hence the physical relation was consensual and no case of rape was to be made.

Learned Public Prosecutor, N.S. Bhati vehemently and fervently opposed the submissions advanced by the appellant. He urged that the victim had given cogent testimony at the trial stating that she was a minor on the date of the incident. The accused lured her away on the premise that he would get her father released from prison. Entertaining this bonafide belief, she accompanied the accused and her grandfather for going to Ahmedabad. The accused gave a slip to her grandfather and forced her to board a train. She was taken to Mahsana where she was kept in a house which is at an isolated place. There, the accused repeatedly subjected her to sexual intercourse. It was further submitted that the medical report pointed towards the alleged rape and the age of the minor was also confirmed accordingly.

The Court, gave thoughtful consideration to the arguments of the parties and observed that “Prima facie, from the evidence available on record, it is duly established and we are fully satisfied that the accused committed the offence under Sections 363 & 376 IPC not because he wanted to sexually assault a member of the scheduled caste community but these offences were perpetrated by the accused in order to satisfy his carnal desires.”

The Court further relied on the judgment in, Masumsha Hasanasha Musalman v. State of Maharashtra, (2000) 3 SCC 557, where the Supreme Court in a similar case opined that, the case was not designated against the SC/ST community specifically. Hence the Court opined that the finding recorded by the trial court whereby the accused was held liable for the offence under Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Act and was sentenced to life imprisonment on this count is ex-facie illegal and contrary to record. Hence, the Court set aside the impugned judgment to that extent. Further, it observed that the remaining Judgment of the trial court was legal. Thus the appeal was allowed partly.[Kesa Bhai v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 1403, decided on 02-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: The Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka, C.J. and H.T. Narendra Prasad, J. while not going into the legal issue involved, dismissed the petition.

A hostel building for girl students belonging to the Scheduled Caste was to be constructed on the order of the State Government as per the request by the Chief Officer, Molakalmuru Town Panchayat. The Hostel was to be constructed on a site meant for civic amenities.

Rama Bhat K., Counsel for the petitioner while objecting to the aforementioned order submitted that the girls’ hostel is not a “civic amenity” as it does not fall under the definition of it, under Section 2(h) of the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities Act, 1987.

Counsel for the respondent contended that the petitioner has no locus standi by raising this objection. He further contended that this particular petition is politically motivated as the petitioner is a defeated member of Zila Panchayat and wants to tarnish the image of the present council.

The Court observed that the act of the petitioner is not pro bono and should not be allowed to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction of this Court by filing a Public Interest Litigation. The Court further observed that the petitioner repeatedly asserted that the construction of a hostel building would cause a nuisance to the neighbours.[V. Mara Nayaka v. State of Karnataka, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 681, decided on 20-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Mohit Kumar Shah, J. entertained a writ petition which sought relief against Bihar Public Service Commission to re-advertise by the way of corrigendum for the post of Dental Doctor and to be allowed to participate in the selection process.

The petitioner prayed for declaring the advertisement of 2015 issued by the Commission contrary to the Reservation Rules, 1991. The petitioner contended that she completed BDS course in 2016. It was stated that 617 posts in dental services were created by a notification of 2013, thus total sanctioned strength in the dental services became 700, out of which a few were earmarked for promotions and a few were already occupied, leaving 558 posts vacant. The Government of Bihar, enacted the Bihar Dentist Service Rule, 2014 for regulating appointments and service conditions in the dentist service. The commission issued an advertisement of 2015, for respective vacant posts and applications were invited from the eligible candidates. Further, it was stated that only 16 posts were earmarked for the backward class female.

The learned counsel for the petitioner, Kripa Nand Jha, submitted that the eligibility criteria in the advertisement of 2015 was BDS degree from a recognized University and should had been registered under the Bihar and Orissa Medical Act, 1916. The counsel brought to the notice of Court that since all the vacant posts were advertised and the last date of submission of the form was in 2015, the petitioner who received his degree in 2016, and similar aggrieved students would be precluded from obtaining employment for years to come.

The learned counsel for the respondent Commission, Zaki Haider, submitted that upon a requisition sent by the Department of Health, the Commission has published the advertisement for appointment as the post of basic grade Dental Surgeon under the Department of Health, Government of Bihar. He referred to the requisition sent by the Government in 2015, it had been submitted that the roster clearance was obtained from the General Administration Department and only thereafter, the vacancies were advertised, category wise. He further submitted that earlier also the Bihar Dentist Rules, 2014, issued vide notification in 2014, which was challenged before the High Court and the learned Division Bench of Court had dismissed the said writ petition.

It was contended by the other respondents, that proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India, conferred the powers to said State and specifically stated that as far as the prayer of the petitioner regarding issuance of a direction upon the respondents to re-advertise the post of Dental Surgeon and 35% horizontal reservation to the female candidates was permitted. They further contend that the petition was misconceived and bereft of any merit as to the aforesaid notification of the Department of 2016, and was not effective retrospectively. The requisitions were made by the Health Department and, accordingly, the Commission had issued the advertisement taking into consideration the rules of reservation i.e. the Bihar Reservation for Vacancies in posts and Services for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and other Backward Classes Act, 1991.

The Court observed that, all adverting to the issue of applicability of the notification issued by the Department, admittedly the same is not applicable retrospectively and moreover, the roster clearance has been taken by the Health Department from the General Administration Department after which requisition was sent and thereafter, the advertisement has been published immediately in 2015, in pursuance to the Bihar Dental Service Rules, 2014.  Hence, the Court held that the said notification of the General Administration Department in 2016 cannot be applied for the recruitment process under consideration in the present writ petition. The contention of the petitioner regarding the Rules, 1991 being contrary to the advertisement of 2015 was also declared void. The Court noted submission made by the learned counsel for the petitioner to the effect that since the petitioner passed in the year 2016 and the advertisement had been issued in 2015, the petitioner was pre-empted from applying for the post of Dental Doctor in the Health Services of the Government of Bihar, and rejected the same as the petitioner was not eligible to apply in pursuance to the advertisement of 2015, hence she had no locus standi to challenge the eligibility conditions. Hence, the petition was dismissed.[Pragya v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 689, decided on 17-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Hearing a public interest litigation, a Bench comprising of BP Dharmadhikari and ZA Haq, JJ. directed the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to consider directing the media to refrain from using the word Dalit when referring to members of Scheduled Castes.

The Court was hearing a petition filed against the use of the word in official government documents. The petitioner informed the Court that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has already advised the Central Government to refrain from using any term apart from “Scheduled Caste” when referring to persons falling under the category. The Court was also informed that the State Government is also deliberating on taking appropriate action on the same.

The petitioner’s advocate then pointed out that similar directions to refrain from using the word were yet to be issued to the media. The Court then directed the Central Government to consider the question of issuing such direction to the media and take a suitable decision upon it within next six weeks. [Pankaj alias Lalitji Meshram v. Joint Secretary, Public Interest Litigation No. 114 of 2016, decided on 06-06-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Acknowledging the abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (the Atrocities Act), the bench of AK Goel and UU Lalit, JJ said that the legislature never intended to use the Atrocities Act as an instrument to blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance nor was it intended to deter public servants from performing their bona fide duties. It was, hence, held that unless exclusion of anticipatory bail is limited to genuine cases and inapplicable to cases where there is no prima facie case was made out, there will be no protection available to innocent citizens.

The Court said:

“the Act cannot be converted into a charter for exploitation or oppression by any unscrupulous person or by police for extraneous reasons against other citizens as has been found on several occasions. … Any harassment of an innocent citizen, irrespective of caste or religion, is against the guarantee of the Constitution.”

Background:

The Court was hearing an appeal against the order of the Bombay High Court where it was held that no public servant or reviewing authority need to apprehend any action by way of false or frivolous prosecution, but the penal provisions of the Atrocities Act could not be faulted merely because of possibility of abuse. In the present matter, certain adverse remarks were recorded under the Atrocities Act against the appellant who was serving as the Director of Technical Education in the State of Maharashtra at the relevant time. Apart from the facts of the present appeal, it was brought to the Court’s notice that there are instances of abuse of the Act by vested interests against political opponents in Panchayat, Municipal or other elections, to settle private civil disputes arising out of property, monetary disputes, employment disputes and seniority disputes.

Conclusion:

The Court held:

“an accused is certainly entitled to show to the Court, if he apprehends arrest, that case of the complainant was motivated. If it can be so shown there is no reason that the Court is not able to protect liberty of such a person. There cannot be any mandate under the law for arrest of an innocent. The law has to be interpreted accordingly.”

Holding that mere unilateral allegation by any individual belonging to any caste, when such allegation is clearly motivated and false, cannot be treated as enough to deprive a person of his liberty without an independent scrutiny, the Court issued the following directions:

  • there is no absolute bar against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide.
  • arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the S.S.P. which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded. Such reasons must be scrutinized by the Magistrate for permitting further detention.
  • to avoid false implication of an innocent, a preliminary enquiry may be conducted by the DSP concerned to find out whether the allegations make out a case under the Atrocities Act and that the allegations are not frivolous or motivated.
  • any violation of the direction of the Court will be actionable by way of disciplinary action as well as contempt.

[Dr Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 243, decided on 20.03.2018]