Read Judgment: Puran Chand Gupta & Others vs. NCT of Delhi & Another
New Delhi, March 9, 2022: While hearing a petition for quashing of FIR registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 for threatening and passing derogatory remarks, the Delhi High Court has reiterated that unless the provisions of the Act are enforced in their true letter and spirit, and the legislative intent underlying the Act is manifested, the vision of a society free of caste-based discrimination will only remain a distant dream.
The Single Judge Chandra Dhari Singh therefore observed that in cases involving the offences under special legislations like the SC/ST Act, while considering the quashing of criminal proceedings, the social discrimination that prevails and the vulnerability of the weaker sections of the society as being prone to coercion, the Court should be more vigilant to ensure that the victim has entered into the compromise on one’s own volition and free will and not on account of any duress.
If, while considering the same, there is an iota of apprehension of compulsion or coercion, no relief can be given to the accused, added the Single Judge.
Going by the background of the case, Vipin Singh (complainant – second respondent), S/O Phool Singh, carries out the work of painting and tiling in homes. He received one order for tiling, in pursuance thereof he asked Anil Kumar (third petitioner) to engage his employee Jagan in the work of tiling for a total amount of Rs. 23,000. Upon the completion of the said work, the owner of the house expressed his dissatisfaction as the same was not properly done. Out of the total amount of Rs. 23,000 the Complainant gave Rs. 15,000 to Jagan and assured him that he will receive the balance amount within next two days. At this point, Jagan complained about the same to Anil Kumar, following which Anil Kumar along with Manish Sharma (second petitioner) and four other persons threatened the Complainant regarding the due amount. They also passed caste-based derogatory remarks to the complainant.
Accordingly, a complaint was made at the Police Station, Dabri, New Delhi in this regard, however, no FIR was registered. Later, the Complainant made a written complaint to DCP, Dwarka on the basis of which, the FIR was registered u/s 3(1)(r) and (3)(1)(s) of the SC/ST Act. Hence, present petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India r/w/s 482 of CrPC sought for quashing of FIR registered at Dabri Police Station u/s 3(1)(r) and (3)(1)(s) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 on the basis of compromise.
After considering the submissions, Justice Singh noted that offences which are “non-compoundable” cannot be compounded by a Criminal Court and any such attempt by the Court would amount to alteration, addition, and modification of Section 320 of CrPC, which is the exclusive domain of the legislature.
However, the High Court, in exercise of its inherent powers u/s 482 of CrPC, keeping in view the peculiar facts and circumstances of case and for justifiable reasons, can quash the criminal proceedings to prevent abuse of the process of any Court and/or to secure the ends of justice, added the Single Judge.
Justice Singh highlighted that quashing of FIR should be an exception and the Section 482 jurisdiction for the same should be exercised sparingly, with circumspection and in rarest of the rare cases.
“In the instant case, quashing has been prayed for on the basis of compromise. In the said compromise, the factum of the incident alleged to have transpired, based on which the instant FIR has been registered, has not been contested. Rather it has been admitted that a quarrel had ensued between the parties that led to the institution of the instant proceedings. Considering the same, there is no requirement of entering into the merits of the case. Hence, the question of any abuse of process does not arise”, added the Single Judge.
The High Court further found that the SC/ST Act is intended to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes communities to provide for Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for ensuring relief and rehabilitation of the victims of such offences.
The High Court therefore refused to quash the FIR observing that the possibility of the Complainant being coerced to enter into the compromise couldnot be ruled out and the humiliation of the Victim/Complainant was totally unprovoked, uncalled for, with the sole intention of humiliating the victim on the basis of his caste for a petty sum of money.
The rigors of SC/ST Act being a Special statute, enacted with a specific noble legislative intent that must be given effect in its letter and spirit, cannot be diluted by quashing the FIR in question on the basis of compromise, added the Court.