Gujarat High Court expresses anguish over misuse of SC/ST; quashes complaint by one BJP against another

“While the Act is essentially meant for protecting the members of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe from atrocity or oppression, at the same time, it cannot be allowed to be misused,” the Court said.

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday expressed concern over the misuse of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act) while quashing a case lodged by a BJP member against another BJP leader who was the President of Chotila Nagarpalika [Jivanbhai Nagjibhai Makwana vs State of Gujarat].

Justice Sandeep Bhatt expressed anguish that the SC/ST Act is often misused and that investigating authorities should probe such offences in a sharp and fair manner.

While the Act is essentially meant for protecting the members of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe from atrocity or oppression, at the same time, it cannot be allowed to be misused. It is a greater responsibility on the investigating officer to investigate such offence wisely and/or very sharply and in a fair manner … With great pain it is noted that, many a time, the provisions of the SC ST Act are being misused, sometime by the complainant and/or some time by the concerned authorities,” the Court said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader before the Court (petitioner) had been booked under the SC/ST Act as well as Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The complaint against the petitioner had been filed by another BJP member, who alleged that the petitioner had abused and insulted him in the name of his caste as he belonged to a scheduled tribe.

The Court found that the complaint was politically motivated and a glaring example of how the SC/ST Act was prone to misuse.

“Here the place of offence is a public place i.e. the office of the Nagarpalika. There is no concrete material against the petitioner in the entire investigation, which attracts the provisions of the law. Prima facie, it seems that it is completely a politically motivated complaint,” the Court remarked.

The judge further underscored that the sufferer in such cases would be a person who did not belong to a scheduled caste or tribe.

“In such situation, the sufferer would be the non-scheduled caste and non-scheduled tribe qua these provisions, by which damage is caused to fabric of social harmony in the society,” the judgment stated.

The complainant as well as the petitioner had both contested for the post of President of the Chotila Nagarpalika and were members of the BJP.

However, the complainant was going to cast his vote in favour of the Congress party. The petitioner is stated to have reported this to the BJP and sought the removal of the complainant from the party. The petitioner was ultimately chosen as the President.

In this background, there was an exchange of words and the petitioner allegedly humiliated the complainant in front of other elected members, including the women members of the Nagarpalika.

The Court was told that as a result of these events, the complainant nursed a grudge against the petitioner. This led him to file a case against the petitioner two days after the alleged incident.

The Court ultimately quashed the criminal case. Among other factors, the Court doubted the genuineness of the complaint since it was filed after some delay and since no one else had filed a complaint against the petitioner, despite the complainant alleging that the petitioner had attacked other members of the Nagarpalika.

“Under the circumstances, the impugned complaint is required to be quashed and set aside,” the bench held.

If the motive for the crime is not a casteist attack, a person cannot be dragged for an offence under the SC/ST Act, the judge clarified.

If we believe that alleged incident has happened, it was pure and simply an abuse by the petitioner under the peculiar facts and circumstances and a sudden outburst and on the spur of the moment without carrying the requisite intention to humiliate the complainant,” the bench held while quashing the first information report (FIR).

Advocate Kunal S Shah appeared for the petitioner. Advocate Dhaval A Parmar represented the complainant. Additional Public Prosecutor Soaham Joshi represented the State.


Source: Bar & Bench

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