Abusing someone with the name of their caste or uttering the caste name suddenly during an exchange, by itself will not be sufficient to establish an offence under the Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) Act, unless there is intent to humiliate the victim specifically for their Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) identity, the Orissa High Court has held in a recent judgment.
The March 1 order was passed by a single-judge Bench of Justice R.K. Pattanaik, which essentially quashed charges framed under the SC/ST Act, as prayed by the accused among other things, while also holding that other charges framed against the two accused needed to be tested at trial.
The case pertained to a 2017 incident, where the accused had got involved in an altercation with some other people. The prosecution’s case noted that the complainant was returning home, when he was abused, assaulted and terrorised by the accused persons. Eventually, passersby intervened, at which point the accused used the caste slur against one of the passersby.
The High Court noted that the alleged victim was himself not the complainant in the case. Under these circumstances, the high court ruled, “If someone is abused with the name of his caste or the caste is uttered suddenly in course of events and during the incident, in the humble view of the Court, by itself would not be sufficient to hold that any offence under the SC and ST (PoA) Act is made out unless the intention is to insult or humiliate the victim for the reason that he belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe is prima facie established.”
The court thus noted that it would be too much of a stretch and “unjustified” to assume that the accused persons had used the slur with the intention to humiliate the victim in question because of his SC identity.
Justice Pattanaik, ruling thus, also cited the precedent set by the Supreme Court of India in the Hitesh Verma Vs State of Uttarakhand and another, where it was held that intent to humiliate someone because of their caste was a prerequisite for bringing charges under the relevant sections of the SC/ST Act.