One of the essential ingredients of Sec 3(1)(r) & (s) of SC/ST Act is that the abusive words are uttered by accused in any place within ‘public view’, holds Delhi High Court
Justice Jyoti Singh [21-03-2024]


Read Order: V.P. KOTHIYAL v. STATE OF NCT OF DELHI & ANR [DEL HC- W.P.(CRL) 1852/2022]


Tulip Kanth


New Delhi, April 1, 2024: The Delhi High Court has quashed an FIR registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 while observing that there was not even a whisper by the complainant as to where, when and in whose presence or public view the alleged humiliating words were uttered by the accused petitioner.


The facts of the case were such that the Petitioner was working at Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) for almost 22 years with an impeccable service record and retired as Director (Works) in 2022. Respondent No.2 was also employed in the same office and was subordinate to the Petitioner. As per the case of the Petitioner, in November, 2021, he called one of his juniors, M.S. Chauhan, to know the status of settlement of accounts of the works pertaining to IARI. When he found that no work had been done in this regard, the Petitioner requested Respondent No.2 to guide M.S. Chauhan.


Respondent No.2 refused to comply with the request and angrily responded. Petitioner came back to his chamber thereafter, where the DEO and STA were also present. Respondent No.2 followed him to the chamber and started shouting that Petitioner was a corrupt officer and after abusing, left the chamber. The Petitioner retired on superannuation and came to know later that Respondent No.2 had filed a complaint against him.


The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Jyoti Singh was considering a writ petition filed on behalf of the Petitioner under Article 226 of the Constitution of India read with Section 482 Cr.P.C. seeking quashing of FIR registered under Section 3(1)(r) and (s) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and all proceedings arising therefrom.


It was the petitioner’s case that from a bare reading of the FIR, it was clear that Respondent No.2 did not state as to where, at what time and in whose presence, the alleged humiliating words were uttered by the Petitioner. Therefore, it couldn’t be said that the alleged insulting words were uttered within ‘public view’, which was one of the essential ingredients of Section 3(1)(r) and (s).


The counsel for the respondent submitted that the Court ought not to place reliance only on the FIR to come to a conclusion that ingredients of the offence with which Petitioner is charged, is not made out. It was stated that Respondent No.2 had given all details of the time and place of incident as well as of the persons in whose presence the humiliating words were uttered by the Petitioner, but for some unknown reason, the police chose not to incorporate the details in the FIR and Respondent No.2 couldn’t be blamed for this omission.


The Bench was of the opinion that there was merit in the contention of the Petitioner that the complaint filed under Section 3(1)(r) and (s) was motivated and actuated by malice, private and personal grudge. It was opined that the case of the Petitioner fits into sub-para (7) of paragraph 102 of the judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Haryana and Others v. Bhajan Lal and Others where it has been observed that power u/s 482 CrPC can be exercised where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.


The Bench further opined that it is open to the Court to examine the FIR and the background facts to ascertain whether it would be in the interest of justice and to prevent abuse of the process of Court that the criminal proceedings be put to an end by quashing the FIR. Referring to Section 3(1)(r) and (s), the Bench observed that the basic ingredients for constituting an offence are: (a) there must be an intentional insult or intimidation or abuse; (b) insult/intimidation/abuse must be with an intent to insult/intimidation/abuse a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe; and (c) the action must be within ‘public view’.


“Indisputably, one of the essential ingredients of Section 3(1)(r) and (s) is that the insulting/intimidating/abusive words are uttered by the accused in any place within ‘public view’”, the Bench held while further observing that in the FIR, there is not a whisper by the Complainant as to where, when and in whose presence or and/or public view the alleged humiliating words were uttered by the Petitioner. In fact, the entire FIR was focussed on prior disputes between the Complainant and the Petitioner.


Noting that the provision does require at least minimal presence of persons to constitute the offence, the Bench highlighted that not even a single person was named in the FIR, in whose presence the alleged words were uttered by the Petitioner, humiliating Respondent No.2. “The allegations, in my considered view, do not constitute the ingredients of offence under Section 3(1)(r) and (s) of the Act, 1989”, it added.


The contents of the complaint and the FIR were pointers to the professional rivalry and the service disputes between the Petitioner and Respondent No.2, the motive for the complaint. “As held by the Supreme Court in Bhajan Lal (supra), continuing with malicious complaints or those lodged with malafide intent and for personal and private grudges should not continue and Courts should exercise powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. to interfere and prevent abuse of process of law by such complainants”, the Bench noticed.


The High Court came to the conclusion that essential ingredients of Section 3(1)(r) and (s) of the Act, 1989 were not made out from the narrative of the alleged incident in the FIR. The Bench also added that paragraph 11 of the judgment in Ashwani Kumar v. State & Anr. reflects that even in the said case, charge sheet had been filed, but the Court quashed the FIR as the allegations therein did not constitute the basic ingredients of the offence alleged.


Thus, allowing the petition, the Bench quashed the FIR registered under Section 3(1)(r) and (s) of Act, 1989 including all proceedings emanating therefrom.

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