In a recent appeal heard by the Supreme Court of India, the Court declared that in order to make a person punishable under Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989. It is necessary that the offence should have been committed because the victim belonged to the SC/ST.

The facts of the present case before the Supreme Court are:

In 2005, the man came in the fields of the victim to graze the buffaloes. The owner of the buffaloes belongs to the ‘thakur’ caste while the victim belongs to the ‘khangar’ caste. A fight broke out between both of them and they started verbally abusing each other. In consequence to that the man of the ‘thakur’ caste attacked the victim with an axe, leading to his death.

The trail Court and the High Court found the accused guilty of murder. Since the accused had brought up the caste of the victim, he was also convicted under Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Act.

As per Section stated above:

If any offence is committed whose punishment is ten or more than ten years under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 against the person or property.And the concerned offence is committed because the victim is the member of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes or the property belongs to such member then the person will be punishable with imprisonment for life and with fine.

Appeal to Supreme Court:

However, on the appeal to the Supreme Court, the Court modified the conviction of murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. This was done because as per the observations of the Court, the offence was not deliberate and pre-planned. The Court noted that the occurrence of the fight was of the sudden nature and therefore it would fall under the Exception 4 of Section 300 Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The conviction of the appellant-accused under Section 302 Indian Penal Code, 1860 is, therefore, to be modified as conviction under Section 304 Part II Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The Bench of the Court comprising of Justice R Banumathi and AS Bopanna also quashed the decision of the lower Court stating that the there is not enough evidence to prove that the act was done only because the victim belongs to the SC/ST Act.

Therefore, the Court acquitted the charges of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 charged upon the appellant. Moreover, the Court also ordered that period already undergone by the appellant in jail. It will be treated as the imprisonment for the offence. Henceforth the appellant will be released, if his presence is not required in any other case.

This judgment was necessary as the people from SC/ST do take the undue advantage of the provisions of the Act.  In the cases of public servants, this is majorly seen. When the public servants under their duty do prohibit the persons of the SC/ST Act, then the people belonging to the SC/ST caste will file a false case.

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