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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A land dispute between the appellant and their neighbour resulted in a criminal proceeding as the appellant threw a brick at the neighbour, and made some unsavoury caste-based comments.
  • The purpose of Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act is to deter caste-based insults and intimidation. However, in the present case, there was already a property dispute between the parties and the alleged abuse was uttered in frustration over the dispute.
  • Considering this, the court found it could be categorised as a private dispute, not a criminal one.
  • Reasons the court quashed the criminal proceedings and set aside orders of the Trial and High Courts.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

  • The appellant and the complainant were neighbours entangled in a property dispute. The appellant and his brother broke down a wall to make a door that opened in the complainant’s house. The appellant threw a brick at the complainant.
  • The incident was reported to the Police, the offence was found non-cognizable as the injury was simple. Subsequently, the appellant and his brother were enraged by the FIR and started abusing the complainant, they made references to her caste, and threatened her.
  • The complainant filed an FIR against the appellant under the SC/ST Act.
  • The Trial court found that the appellant had made specific references to the caste of the complainant with the intent to insult. The actions of the accused were held in contravention to section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act, and they were convicted.
  • The case was appealed to the High Court, where the appellants contended that the abuses were not meant to demean the complainant, and the incident occurred due to the property dispute.
  • The high court disagreed with these submissions and held there was sufficient material to establish that the appellant had humiliated the complainant.

SUPREME COURT’S DECISION

  • The court found that it can exercise its powers under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution to quash a criminal proceeding, even under a special law like the SC/ST Act.
  • The purpose of Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act is to deter caste-based insults and intimidation. However, the court notices in the present case there was already a property dispute between the parties and the alleged abuse is uttered in frustration over the dispute. Considering this, the court found it could be categorised as a private dispute, not a criminal one.
  • Further, the objective of the act is to shield lower castes from the Upper-strata of society, but in the present case, the appellant is also a member of a relatively weaker caste, like the complainant. the overriding objective of the act is not overwhelmed.
  • The incident occurred in 1994, and there was no record of any untoward incidents between the parties before it.
  • Finally, the parties have entered into a voluntary compromise, and already wish to drop the proceedings.
  • For these reasons the court quashed the criminal proceedings and set aside orders of the Trial and High Courts.

QUESTIONS

  • What are the Supreme Court’s powers under article 142 of the Constitution?
  • What is the SC/ST act section 3(1)(x)?

Let us know your views on the issue in the comment section below.

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