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Caste atrocity case filed against in-laws
Shibu Thomas | TNN
Mumbai: Can a woman born into what is called a ‘lower caste’ and who marries an upper-caste man file a case against her husband and in-laws under the Special Atrocities Act? A full bench of the Bombay High Court will now decide on the vexed issue.
The matter was placed before a larger bench following differing views of two different benches of the HC. The case before the HC concerned a complaint filed by a woman belonging to the scheduled caste, who married Rajendra Shrivastava (from the Kayastha caste) in 1991.
She filed a case against her husband and in-laws last year at the Nehru Nagar police station for treating her cruelly and also invoked the Atrocities Act. She claimed that her husband
and her in-laws “from time to time, abused her in filthy language in the name of her caste”.
The matter came to court after the Shrivastavas moved the high court seeking anticipatory bail. One bench of the court granted anticipatory bail to Shirvastava’s brother and sister ruling that the provisions of the special law could not be invoked. But during the hearing of his own application before another court, Justice Dilip Bhosale disagreed and referred the case to a full bench.
Shrivastava’s lawyers argued that following her marriage, her caste merged with that of her husband’s Kayastha caste. Consequently, special laws like the Atrocities Act and Civil Rights Act — meant for the protection of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes — could not be invoked by her.
Additional public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde referred to judgements of the Supreme Court and argued that a woman acquired caste by birth and not by marriage. So, if after marriage of a woman originally belonging to a scheduled caste was abused in the name of her caste, the provisions of the Atrocities Act should be applicable.
Justice D B Bhosale, while referring the matter to a full bench of the high court, had observed: “The recognition of a lady as a member of forward class in view of her marriage would be relevant as long as she is treated as a member of the caste to which she has moved.”
“But, if she is treated as a member of backward community by a member of the public or her husband or her relatives by their conduct or treatment and if they abuse her in the name of her caste which she has acquired by birth, then — in my opinion — there is no legal impediment in registering an offence under the provisions of the Atrocities Act and/or the Civil Rights Act,” he added.