During a hearing, Gujarat High Court said that to prosecute a person under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, it is necessary to establish that the accused had knowledge of the victim’s caste.
“If we refer Section 3(5) (A) of the Act, it must be within the knowledge of the accused person that such person is a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member. It is nowhere alleged by the complainant that the accused persons were having knowledge that the complainant was the member of Schedule Caste or Schedule Tribe or such property belongs to such member,” said Justice BN Karia.
The Gujarat High Court said this in connection with a criminal appeal filed under Section 14 of the Act, seeking anticipatory bail.
In the concerned case, the respondents had filed an FIR and had alleged that accused 1 and 2 had demanded sexual favours from respondent number 2. When she told her husband about the said occurrence, one of the accused allegedly hurled abusive words against her caste and gave a kick and a blow to another witness.
Respondent number 2 registered a complaint under the SC/ST Act. The names of the present Appellants were not mentioned in the FIR and only during the investigation, the Appellants’ names were raised.
The appellants had filed an application before the Additional Sessions Judge under section 438 of CrPC seeking anticipatory bail for offences under Sections 354(A)(1), 354-D, 323, 506(2) and 114 of IPC, and Sections 3(1)(r), (s), 3(1)(w-1-2) and 3(2)(5A) of the SC/ST Act which was rejected by the Judge in the lower court. Therefore, they filed the appeal in the high court.
The Appellants primarily contended that no offence under the SC/ST Act could be made out since the appellants did not insult or abuse the caste of the complainant.
Further, the alleged incident occurred on 19th November but the complaint was filed on 21st November wherein general and vague allegations were made against the Appellants. The instant incident only pertained to a political dispute between the parties.
In contradiction, the Respondent-State averred that section 18 debarred the Appellants for seeking anticipatory bail and during the course of the investigation, it was revealed that the Appellants were involved in the incident and serious allegations were made against them.
The Bench observing the apex court’s judgement regarding anticipatory bail gave the appellants anticipatory bail.
The court noted that there were no specific allegations in the complaint against the Appellants within certain sections of the SC/ST Act. Recognizing that the Appellants did not insult or use any words alleged by Respondent No.2 against her caste, the bench opined that prima facie, no offence was made out under the SC/ST Act. In the instant case, the appellants were not aware of Respondent No. 2’s caste.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the appellants were directed to be enlarged on bail with a bond of INR 10,000 each and were directed to cooperate with the investigation and refrain from making inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the case. They were also directed to be present before the Magistrate on the first date of hearing and other occasions per the Magistrate.