High Court strict on SC and ST Act – Merely naming caste is not a crime

The Karnataka High Court has taken a major decision regarding the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act-1989. The High Court has held that mere addressing by caste would not be an offense unless it was with the intention of insulting a person belonging to that caste.

Quashing the proceedings against an accused in violation of the provisions of the Atrocities Act, the HC also said that under Rule 7, the case should be investigated by a police officer of the rank of a deputy SP and not a sub-inspector. Partly allowing the petition filed by V Sailesh Kumar, a resident of Bandesandra village in Bangalore Rural district, Justice M Nagaprasanna said that the petitioner would face trial for offenses under the IPC such as assault, criminal intimidation, etc. The case pertains to a dispute between two teams after a cricket match.

On 14 June 2020, Jayamma of Iggaluru village filed a complaint. He alleged that his son Manoj and his friend Pradeep were having food near a shop and around 4.30 pm, Shailesh Kumar came there along with 30 people on a two-wheeler and a car and hurled abuses against Manoj. Another man attacked and injured them with weapons and beer bottles, and took them to a car and assaulted them as well.

The police investigated the matter and filed a charge sheet invoking provisions of both the Atrocities Act and the IPC. On March 1, 2021, the special judge had ordered registration of a special case under the Atrocities Act.

This was challenged by Sailesh who claimed that the caste name was an abuse, although he also admitted that the intention was not to insult.

The judge observed that this aspect (intent to offend) is conspicuously absent in the present case and allowing further proceedings to continue in respect of offenses under the Atrocities Act would amount to an abuse of the process of law. The judge noted that neither the charge sheet nor the statement described such circumstances. Only the son of the complainant said that casteist names were used when he was abused. PLC/GT


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