Two provisions of the Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 provides for punishing anyone who intentionally insults or intimidates or abuses any member of any scheduled caste or scheduled tribe. Section 3(r) and Section 3(s) of The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 two are extracted hereunder for easy reference:
Punishments for offences atrocities.—
[(1) Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste
or a Scheduled Tribe,—
(r) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a
Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view;
(s) abuses any member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe by caste name in any place
within public view;
shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which maySection 3(r) and Section 3(s) of The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
extend to five years and with fine.
For attracting these two provisions, the essential ingredient is that the act must have been committed in “public view.” What amounts to public view is an interesting question, which I shall answer in this blog post.
The case of Gorige Pentaiah v. State of A.P., (2008) 12 SCC 531 : (2009) 1 SCC (Cri) 446 is a landmark decision wherein a criminal complaint was quashed on the ground that the words were not uttered by the accused person, or that the act was done in a place within public view.
6. In the instant case, the allegation of Respondent 3 in the entire complaint is that on 27-5-2004, the appellant abused them with the name of their caste. According to the basic ingredients of Section 3(1)(x) of the Act, the complainant ought to have alleged that the appellant-accused was not a member of the Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and he (Respondent 3) was intentionally insulted or intimidated by the accused with intent to humiliate in a place within public view. In the entire complaint, nowhere it is mentioned that the appellant-accused was not a member of the Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and he intentionally insulted or intimidated with intent to humiliate Respondent 3 in a place within public view. When the basic ingredients of the offence are missing in the complaint, then permitting such a complaint to continue and to compel the appellant to face the rigmarole of the criminal trial would be totally unjustified leading to abuse of process of law.
27. In our considered opinion, filing of such a frivolous complaint in the instant case is a total abuse of process of law. Consequently, we set aside the impugned judgment passed by the High Court and quash the complaint emanating from Crime No. 281 of 2004, Police Station Uppal, Hyderabad.Gorige Pentaiah v. State of A.P., (2008) 12 SCC 531 : (2009) 1 SCC (Cri) 446
Another important decision is that of the Kerala High Court in E.K. Nayanarv v. Dr. M.A. Kuttappan, 1997 SCC OnLine Ker 44 : (1997) 1 KLJ 280 : (1997) 1 KLT 512 : 1997 Cri LJ 2036 wherein the question that was dealt with by the Learned Single Judge Justice N. Dhinakar, J.was whether the physical presence of the person being insulted is required to attract the said provision. Quashing the complaint based on the said question, the Court held that the person being insulted must be present at the place where such insult was being hurled. The relevant provision of the decision is extracted hereunder:
12. A reading of Section 3 shows that two kinds of insults against the member of a Scheduled Castes of Scheduled Tribe are made punishable – one as defined under sub Section (ii) and the other as defined under sub section (x) of the said section. A combined rending of the two sub Sections shows that under sub section (ii) insult can be caused to a member of the scheduled caste or Scheduled Tribe by dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxius substance in his premises or meighbourhood, and to cause such insult, the dumping of excreta etc. need not necessarily be done in the presence of the person insulted and whereas under sub section (x) insult can be caused to the person insulted only if he is present in view of the expression “in any place within public view”. The words “within public view”, in my opinion, are referable only to the person insulted and not to the person who insulted him as the said expression is conspicuously absent in sub-section (ii) of Section 3 of Act 33/1989. By avoiding to use the expression “within public view” in Sub Section (ii), the Legislature, I feel, has created two different kinds of offences – an insult caused to a member of the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, even in his absence, by dumping excreta etc in his premises or neighbourhood and an insult by words cased to a member of the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe “within public view” which means at the time of the alleged insult the person insulted must be present as, the expression “within public view” indicates or otherwise the Legislature would have avoided the use of the said expression which it avoided in sub-section (ii) or would have used the expression “in any public place”.
13. Insult contemplated under sub section (ii) is different from the insult contemplated under sub section (x) as in the former a member of the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes gets insulted by the physical act and whereas in the latter he gets insulted in public view by the words uttered by the wrong doer for which he must be present at the place.E.K. Nayanarv v. Dr. M.A. Kuttappan, 1997 SCC OnLine Ker 44 : (1997) 1 KLJ 280 : (1997) 1 KLT 512 : 1997 Cri LJ 2036
18. As stated by me earlier the words used in sub Section (x) are not “in public place”, but “within public view” which means the public must view the person being insulted for which he must be present and no offence on the allegations under the said section gets attracted. In my view the entire allegations contained in the complaint even if taken to be true do not make out any offence against the petitioner.
From the above decisions, the following observations can be deduced. The complaint/FIR/Final Report for an offence under Section 3(r) and Section 3(s) of The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 must spell out that:
- The complainant does not belong to SC/ST caste
- The accused and the victim were present at the scene of occurrence
- The words were spelt out with an intention to insult
In the absence of the above ingredients, the offence would not be attracted.