The Hyderabad High Court has made it clear that continuation of investigation against the accused will amount to abuse of process of law if the offence against him under Section 3 (1) (x) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is not made out as per law.
The offence alleged against the accused is the one under Section 3 (1) (x) of the Act which reads that (1) whoever, not being a member of SC or ST and intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of SC or ST in any place within public view, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine.
Justice U Durga Prasad Rao gave the above ruling while quashing the proceedings registered against the accused at Thorrur police station in Warangal district as the complaint allegations show that the offence took place in the house of the accused but not mentioned about the ‘public view’ i.e presence of public and witnessing the incident.
As for facts of the case, the police registered FIR based on a report given by one Jatoth Gutta belonging to a Scheduled Tribe. The allegations are that in respect of lands acquired by his grandfather, the names of the complainant and his two brothers were not recorded in the revenue records and so, in order to request the accused who is the VRO of their village, to enter their names in the Pahanies, the complainant and his brother J Mallaiah went to the house of the accused (VRO) and requested him to enter their names in the Pahanies.
The accused allegedly replied that he could not do that work and they had to put up an application to MRO but the complainant and his brother importuned him. On that, it was alleged, the accused grew wild and abused them in the name of caste. Then they lodged a complaint against the accused VRO and the police registered an FIR. Aggrieved with this, the petitioner/accused filed the quash petition before the High Court.
Denying the FIR allegations, the counsel for petitioner/accused said that even if the entire allegations were uncontroverted, they did not constitute any offence inasmuch as they would reveal that the accused had explained to them that he was not competent to enter the names of the complainant and his brothers in the Pahanies and they had to put up an application to MRO for consideration. In spite of it, they annoyed with repeated requests and in such a scenario even if he shouted at them, it could not be said that he had any criminal intention to abuse them by caste to demean them. Section 3 (1) (x) of the SC, ST Act would not attract as there was no intentional insult, he argued.
The counsel urged the court to quash the proceedings, saying that even if the allegations were accepted to be true, still charge under the above section are not maintainable in view of the fact that the alleged offence took place at the house of the accused. He contended that unless the offence had taken place within public view, the accused could not be held guilty.
On the other hand, the counsel appearing for the complainant sought dismissal of the petition, alleging that the accused had intentionally insulted the complainant by his caste. If really the accused was annoyed by the repeated requests of the complainant then he could have shouted at him in a different manner and there was no need of abusing him by his caste. Though the offence occurred in a private place, still it was within the ‘public view’ and therefore, the offence was maintainable against the accused. The court had to take the FIR allegations to be true in deciding the quash petition, he argued.
After hearing the case and perusing the material on record, justice Durga Prasad Rao observed that to attract the offence, the requisite ingredients are that the offender is not a member of SC or ST; he intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a SC or ST; and in any place within public view.
The judge said it was clear that irrespective of the place of offence being a ‘public place’ or ‘private place’, it must be within ‘public view’. Relying upon decisions taken in the cases of D Santosh Reddy and V Sudhakar, in which the proceedings were held not maintainable against the accused, the judge allowed the VRO’s criminal petition.