Criminal Appeal No. 1393 Of 2011
Date of Judgement:
CJI NV Ramana, Justice Suryakant, Justice Hima Kohli.
Appellant - Ramawatar
Respondent - State of Madhya Pradesh
This case dealt with whether criminal proceedings can be quashed against a person accused of hurting the sentiments of the victim who belongs to the Scheduled Caste category by exercising special powers of the court.
Article 142 of the constitution – The Supreme Court may pass such decrees or orders in the exercise of its jurisdiction for doing complete justice in any cause or matter before it.
- A civil dispute over the possession of land arose between the appellant and his neighbour wherein the appellant allegedly assaulted his neighbour and used casteist slurs.
- The neighbour filed a complaint under Section 3(1)(x) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989.
- The Appellant was tried under the SC/ST Act and was imprisoned for a period of 6 months along with fine of Rupees 1000/-.
- The appellant contended that the abuses, if any, were not directed to demean the complainant on the basis of caste and therefore the provisions of SC/ST Act shall not apply.
- The appellant’s contention was rejected by the High Court after which the appellant approached the Supreme Court.
- The counsel for the appellant based on the findings of the court in the judgement of Hitesh Verma v. the State of Uttarakhand, wherein it was established that the disputes between a vulnerable section of the society and upper caste would not attract provisions of SC/ST Act if the allegations are not based on the victim being a Scheduled Caste,and thereby prayed that the court quash criminal proceedings by invocation of courts powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.
- The counsel for the respondent opposed the recourse adopted by the counsel for the appellant and stated that the appeal did not involve a substantial question of law and that the compromise settlement is inconsequential as the offence was not compoundable.
- Whether the court can quash the criminal proceedings by invoking Article 142 of the Constitution?
- Whether the court can quash proceedings relating to offences involving the SC/ ST Act?
- The Hon’ble Supreme Court citing the case of Ramgopal Anr v. the State of Madhya Pradesh stated that the jurisdiction of the court under Section 320 CrPC does not bar the court from exercising inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution. Further, the court stated that such powers can be exercised after taking due consideration of the nature of the offence and the fact that the victim has willingly entered into a compromise without any coercion.
- The court heavily relied on the case of Ramgopal wherein it was held that the criminal proceedings which are non-heinous offences and of private nature could be set aside at any stage of proceedings. Further, the decision of the court in Ramgopal case affirmed that the powers of the court under Article 142 can be invoked to quash criminal proceedings on the basis of compromise between the parties.
- The court further stated that the powers under Article 142 can be exercised only post-conviction matters and when the accused has exhausted his/ her legal remedies.
- The Supreme Court observed that Article 142 of the Constitution cannot be used indiscriminately with disregard to statutory provisions and special laws.
- The Supreme Court observed that the offence committed by the appellant was private or civil in nature and the offence was committed not on account of caste of the victim and hence any continuation of legal proceedings would be abuse of process of law.
- The Supreme Court observed that in compromise settlements, it is necessary to establish that the compromise is obtained not on account of duress, compulsion or coercion as the weaker sections are already prone to such acts of coercion and therefore a higher degree of protection is required to be exercised .
- The court after taking into account the facts and circumstances of the case, held that the invoking Article 142 is necessary to quash criminal proceedings as this would ensure complete justice between parties. It was observed by the court that parties had subsisting civil disputes and the alleged abuses were on account of anger and frustration and were not uttered to demean the victim.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court after careful examination of the facts and circumstances of the case held that in the interest of complete justice to the parties, it was appropriate to invoke powers under Article 142 of the Constitution and quash criminal proceedings against the appellant. The appeal was allowed in the interest of justice as it is was noted by the court that alleged abuses were uttered on account of civil disputes subsisting between them and were not intended to demean the victim.
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