Hitesh Verma vs The State Of Uttarakhand on 5 November, 2020


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Supreme Court of India

Hitesh Verma vs The State Of Uttarakhand on 5 November, 2020

Author: Hemant Gupta

Bench: L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, Ajay Rastogi

                                                                                   REPORTABLE


                                                 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                               CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                                          CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 707 OF 2020
                                  (ARISING OUT OF SLP (CRIMINAL) NO. 3585 OF 2020)



                         HITESH VERMA                                            .....APPELLANT(S)

                                                               VERSUS

                         THE STATE OF UTTARAKHAND & ANR.                       .....RESPONDENT(S)




                                                      JUDGMENT

HEMANT GUPTA, J.

1. The challenge in the present appeal is to an order passed by the

High Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital on 20.7.2020 whereby the

petition filed by the appellant under Section 482 of the Code of

Criminal Procedure, 19731 for quashing the charge-sheet as well as

the summoning order dated 25.6.2020 was dismissed.

2. The FIR No. 173 in question was lodged by the respondent No. 2 on

11.12.2019 at 23:24 hours in respect of an incident alleged to have
Signature Not Verified
occurred on 10.12.2019 at 10:00 hours against the appellants and
Digitally signed by
Vishal Anand
Date: 2020.11.05

others. The FIR was lodged for the offences under Sections 452,
16:30:41 IST
Reason:

1 For short, the ‘Code’

1
504, 506 and Section 3(1)(x) and 3(1)(e) of the Scheduled Castes

and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 2. The

said FIR, when translated, reads as under:

“Respected SHO with respect of registering of FIR, the
complainant is presently resident of Gram New Bajeti
Patti Chandak Tehsil & District Pithoragarh. I am
constructing my house on my Khet No. 6195, 6196 &
6199 but Banshilal, Pyarelal S/o Late Har Lal, Hitesh
Verma S/o Sh. Pyarelal, Pawan Verma S/o Banshilal, Uma
Verma w/o Pyarelal and their Nepali Domestic help Raju
from past 6 months are not allowing the applicant to
work on her fields. All the above persons used to abuse
the applicant her husband and other family members
and use to give death threats and use Caste coloured
abuses. On 10.12.2019 at around 10 am, all these
persons entered illegally in to four walls of her building
and started hurling abuses on myself and my labourers
and gave death threats and used castes’
remarks/abuses and took away the construction
material such as Cement, Iron, Rod, Bricks. The
Applicant is a Scheduled Caste and all of the above
person uses castes’ remarks/abuses (used bad
language) and said that you are persons of bad caste
and that we will not let you live in this mohalla/vicinity.
Respect Sir, the applicant and her family has threat to
her life from such persons. Thus, it is requested that an
FIR may be lodged against such persons and necessary
action may be taken against them…..”

3. Pursuant to the FIR filed by Respondent No. 2, Police filed a report

disclosing offences under Sections 504, 506 IPC and Section 3(1)(x)

of the Act, cognizance for the same was taken by the Trial Court on

25.6.2020. It is the said order which was challenged along with the

charge-sheet before the High Court, which was unsuccessful.

4. On the other hand, on the basis of the statement of Mr. Pawan

Verma, an FIR No. 174 at about 23:47 hours was lodged on

2 For short, “the Act”.

2
11.12.2019 in respect of an occurrence which had taken place

allegedly at 9:45 hours on 11.12.2019. A charge-sheet in the said

matter has been submitted against respondent No. 2 and others.

Thereafter, the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pithoragarh had

taken cognizance for the offences under Sections 323 and 354 IPC

against respondent No. 2 and others on 2.7.2020.

5. The Appellant invoked the jurisdiction of the High Court by way of a

petition under Section 482 of the Code to challenge the charge-

sheet and the order taking cognizance. The Appellant relied upon

Gerige Pentaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors. 3 wherein

the allegation was of abusing the complainant in the name of their

caste and this Court quashed the complaint. The attention of the

High Court was drawn to another judgment reported as Ashabai

Machindra Adhagale v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. 4 wherein

this Court refused to quash the FIR on the ground that the caste of

the accused was not mentioned in the first information report. The

High Court found that both the abovementioned cases dealt with

the same issue with regard to applicability of the provisions of the

Act. It was observed by the High Court that the appellant had

categorically admitted that the informant belonged to Scheduled

Caste and that she and her labourers were abused. Therefore, the

provisions of the Act were found to be applicable and accordingly,

after investigation, charge-sheet has been submitted. The High

Court dismissed the petition with the aforesaid findings.

3    (2008) 12 SCC 531
4    (2009) 3 SCC 789

                                                                          3

6. The learned counsel for the appellant argued that the disputes

relating to the property are pending before the Civil Court and that,

the present FIR has been filed on patently false grounds by

respondent No. 2 only to harass the appellant and to abuse of

process of law. It is argued that the allegations levelled in the FIR

and the subsequent report submitted by the Police after

investigations does not disclose any offence under the Act.

Furthermore, it is argued that the report neither discloses the caste

of the informant nor the allegations are that they were made in

public view. Also, the offending words are not purported to be made

for the reason that the informant is a person belonging to

Scheduled Caste.

7. The learned counsel for the State on the contrary, submitted that

during investigations, certain persons have supported the version

of the informant. It is argued on behalf of respondent No. 2 that in

fact the appellant and his family are encroacher on the informant’s

land. Therefore, the appellant was rightly not granted any

indulgence by the High Court.

8. Against the backdrop of these facts, it is pertinent to refer to the

Statement of Objects and Reasons of enactment of the Act. It is

provided as under:

“Despite various measures to improve the socio-

economic conditions of the Scheduled Castes and the
Scheduled Tribes, they remain vulnerable. They are
denied number of civil rights. They are subjected to

4
various offences, indignities, humiliations and
harassment. They have, in several brutal incidents,
been deprived of their life and property. Serious crimes
are committed against them for various historical, social
and economic reasons.

2. Because of the awareness created amongst the
Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes through
spread of education, etc., they are trying to assert their
rights and this is not being taken very kindly by the
others. When they assert their rights and resist
practices of untouchability against them or demand
statutory minimum wages or refuse to do any bonded
and forced labour, the vested interests try to cow them
down and terrorise them. When the Scheduled Castes
and the Scheduled Tribes try to preserve their self-
respect or honour of their women, they become irritants
for the dominant and the mighty. Occupation and
cultivation of even the Government allotted land by the
Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes is resented
and more often these people become victims of attacks
by the vested interests. Of late, there has bene an
increase in the disturbing trend of commission of certain
atrocities like making the Scheduled Caste persons eat
inedible substances like human excreta and attacks on
and mass killings of helpless Scheduled Castes and the
Scheduled Tribes and rape of women belonging to the
Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Under the
circumstances, the existing laws like the Protection of
Civil Rights Act
, 1955 and the normal provisions of the
Indian Penal Code
have been found to be inadequate to
check these crimes. A special Legislation to check and
deter crimes against them committed by non-Scheduled
Castes and non-Scheduled Tribes has, therefore, become
necessary.”

9. The long title of the Act is to prevent the commission of offences of

atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the

Scheduled Tribes, to provide for Special Courts and Exclusive

Special Courts for the trial of such offences and for the relief and

rehabilitation of the victims of such offences and for matters

connected therewith or incidental thereto.

5

10. The Act was enacted to improve the social economic conditions of

the vulnerable sections of the society as they have been subjected

to various offences such as indignities, humiliations and

harassment. They have been deprived of life and property as well.

The object of the Act is thus to punish the violators who inflict

indignities, humiliations and harassment and commit the offence

as defined under Section 3 of the Act. The Act is thus intended to

punish the acts of the upper caste against the vulnerable section of

the society for the reason that they belong to a particular

community.

11. It may be stated that the charge-sheet filed is for an offence under

Section 3(1)(x) of the Act. The said section stands substituted by

Act No. 1 of 2016 w.e.f. 26.1.2016. The substituted corresponding

provision is Section 3(1)(r) which reads as under:

“3(1)(r) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to
humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a
Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view;”

12. The basic ingredients of the offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act

can be classified as “1) intentionally insults or intimidates with

intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled

Tribe and 2) in any place within public view”.

13. The offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act would indicate the

ingredient of intentional insult and intimidation with an intent to

humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe.

6
All insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offence under

the Act unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim

belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. The object of the

Act is to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled

Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as they are denied number of civil

rights. Thus, an offence under the Act would be made out when a

member of the vulnerable section of the Society is subjected to

indignities, humiliations and harassment. The assertion of title over

the land by either of the parties is not due to either the indignities,

humiliations or harassment. Every citizen has a right to avail their

remedies in accordance with law. Therefore, if the appellant or his

family members have invoked jurisdiction of the civil court, or that

respondent No.2 has invoked the jurisdiction of the civil court, then

the parties are availing their remedies in accordance with the

procedure established by law. Such action is not for the reason that

respondent No.2 is member of Scheduled Caste.

14. Another key ingredient of the provision is insult or intimidation in

“any place within public view”. What is to be regarded as “place in

public view” had come up for consideration before this Court in the

judgment reported as Swaran Singh & Ors. v. State through

Standing Counsel & Ors.5. The Court had drawn distinction

between the expression “public place” and “in any place within

public view”. It was held that if an offence is committed outside the

building e.g. in a lawn outside a house, and the lawn can be seen

5 (2008) 8 SCC 435

7
by someone from the road or lane outside the boundary wall, then

the lawn would certainly be a place within the public view. On the

contrary, if the remark is made inside a building, but some

members of the public are there (not merely relatives or friends)

then it would not be an offence since it is not in the public view.

The Court held as under:

“28. It has been alleged in the FIR that Vinod Nagar, the
first informant, was insulted by Appellants 2 and 3 (by
calling him a “chamar”) when he stood near the car
which was parked at the gate of the premises. In our
opinion, this was certainly a place within public view,
since the gate of a house is certainly a place within
public view. It could have been a different matter had
the alleged offence been committed inside a
building, and also was not in the public view. However, if
the offence is committed outside the building e.g. in a
lawn outside a house, and the lawn can be seen by
someone from the road or lane outside the boundary
wall, the lawn would certainly be a place within the
public view. Also, even if the remark is made inside a
building, but some members of the public are there (not
merely relatives or friends) then also it would be an
offence since it is in the public view. We must, therefore,
not confuse the expression “place within public view”
with the expression “public place”. A place can be a
private place but yet within the public view. On the
other hand, a public place would ordinarily mean a place
which is owned or leased by the Government or the
municipality (or other local body) or gaon sabha or an
instrumentality of the State, and not by private persons
or private bodies.”

15. As per the FIR, the allegations of abusing the informant were within

the four walls of her building. It is not the case of the informant

that there was any member of the public (not merely relatives or

friends) at the time of the incident in the house. Therefore, the

basic ingredient that the words were uttered “in any place within

8
public view” is not made out. In the list of witnesses appended to

the charge-sheet, certain witnesses are named but it could not be

said that those were the persons present within the four walls of

the building. The offence is alleged to have taken place within the

four walls of the building. Therefore, in view of the judgment of this

Court in Swaran Singh, it cannot be said to be a place within

public view as none was said to be present within the four walls of

the building as per the FIR and/or charge-sheet.

16. There is a dispute about the possession of the land which is the

subject matter of civil dispute between the parties as per

respondent No.2 herself. Due to dispute, appellant and others were

not permitting respondent No.2 to cultivate the land for the last six

months. Since the matter is regarding possession of property

pending before the Civil Court, any dispute arising on account of

possession of the said property would not disclose an offence under

the Act unless the victim is abused, intimated or harassed only for

the reason that she belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

17. In another judgment reported as Khuman Singh v. State of

Madhya Pradesh6, this Court held that in a case for applicability

of Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, the fact that the deceased belonged

to Scheduled Caste would not be enough to inflict enhanced

punishment. This Court held that there was nothing to suggest

that the offence was committed by the appellant only because the

deceased belonged to Scheduled Caste. The Court held as under:

6 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1104

9
“15. As held by the Supreme Court, the offence must be
such so as to attract the offence under Section 3(2)(v) of
the Act. The offence must have been committed against
the person on the ground that such person is a member
of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. In the present
case, the fact that the deceased was belonging
to “Khangar”-Scheduled Caste is not disputed. There is
no evidence to show that the offence was committed
only on the ground that the victim was a member of the
Scheduled Caste and therefore, the conviction of the
appellant-accused under Section 3(2)(v) of the
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Act
is not sustainable.”

18. Therefore, offence under the Act is not established merely on the

fact that the informant is a member of Scheduled Caste unless

there is an intention to humiliate a member of Scheduled Caste or

Scheduled Tribe for the reason that the victim belongs to such

caste. In the present case, the parties are litigating over

possession of the land. The allegation of hurling of abuses is

against a person who claims title over the property. If such person

happens to be a Scheduled Caste, the offence under Section 3(1)(r)

of the Act is not made out.

19. This Court in a judgment reported as Dr. Subhash Kashinath

Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra & Anr. 7 issued certain

directions in respect of investigations required to be conducted

under the Act. In a review filed by the Union against the said

judgment, this Court in a judgment reported as Union of India v.

State of Maharashtra & Ors.8 reviewed the directions issued by

this Court and held that if there is a false and unsubstantiated FIR,

7 (2018) 6 SCC 454
8 (2020) 4 SCC 761

10
the proceedings under Section 482 of the Code can be invoked.

The Court held as under:

“52. There is no presumption that the members of the
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes may misuse the
provisions of law as a class and it is not resorted to by
the members of the upper castes or the members of the
elite class. For lodging a false report, it cannot be said
that the caste of a person is the cause. It is due to the
human failing and not due to the caste factor. Caste is
not attributable to such an act. On the other hand,
members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
due to backwardness hardly muster the courage to
lodge even a first information report, much less, a false
one. In case it is found to be false/unsubstantiated, it
may be due to the faulty investigation or for other
various reasons including human failings irrespective of
caste factor. There may be certain cases which may be
false that can be a ground for interference by the Court,
but the law cannot be changed due to such misuse. In
such a situation, it can be taken care of in proceeding
under Section 482 CrPC.”

20. Later, while examining the constitutionality of the provisions of the

Amending Act (Central Act No. 27 of 2018), this Court in a

judgment reported as Prathvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India &

Ors.9 held that proceedings can be quashed under Section 482 of

the Code. It was held as under:

“12. The Court can, in exceptional cases, exercise
power under Section 482 CrPC for quashing the cases to
prevent misuse of provisions on settled parameters, as
already observed while deciding the review petitions.
The legal position is clear, and no argument to the
contrary has been raised.”

21. In Gerige Pentaiah, one of the arguments raised was non-

disclosure of the caste of the accused but the facts were almost
9 (2020) 4 SCC 727

11
similar as there was civil dispute between parties pending and the

allegation was that the accused has called abuses in the name of

the caste of the victim. The High Court herein has misread the

judgment of this Court in Ashabai Machindra Adhagale as it was

not a case about the caste of the victim but the fact that the

accused was belonging to upper caste was not mentioned in the

FIR. The High Court of Bombay had quashed the proceedings for

the reason that the caste of the accused was not mentioned in the

FIR, therefore, the offence under Section 3(1)(xi) of the Act is not

made out. In an appeal against the decision of the Bombay High

Court, this Court held that this will be the matter of investigation as

to whether the accused either belongs to or does not belong to

Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. Therefore, the High Court

erred in law to dismiss the quashing petition relying upon later

larger Bench judgment.

22. The appellant had sought quashing of the charge-sheet on the

ground that the allegation does not make out an offence under the

Act against the appellant merely because respondent No. 2 was a

Scheduled Caste since the property dispute was not on account of

the fact that respondent No. 2 was a Scheduled Caste. The

property disputes between a vulnerable section of the society and

a person of upper caste will not disclose any offence under the Act

unless, the allegations are on account of the victim being a

Scheduled Caste. Still further, the finding that the appellant was

aware of the caste of the informant is wholly inconsequential as the

12
knowledge does not bar, any person to protect his rights by way of

a procedure established by law.

23. This Court in a judgment reported as Ishwar Pratap Singh & Ors.

v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr.10 held that there is no

prohibition under the law for quashing the charge-sheet in part. In

a petition filed under Section 482 of the Code, the High Court is

required to examine as to whether its intervention is required for

prevention of abuse of process of law or otherwise to secure the

ends of justice. The Court held as under:

“9. Having regard to the settled legal position on
external interference in investigation and the specific
facts of this case, we are of the view that the High Court
ought to have exercised its jurisdiction under Section
482
CrPC to secure the ends of justice. There is no
prohibition under law for quashing a charge-sheet in
part. A person may be accused of several offences
under different penal statutes, as in the instant case. He
could be aggrieved of prosecution only on a particular
charge or charges, on any ground available to him in
law. Under Section 482, all that the High Court is
required to examine is whether its intervention is
required for implementing orders under the Criminal
Procedure Code
or for prevention of abuse of process, or
otherwise to secure the ends of justice. A charge-sheet
filed at the dictate of somebody other than the police
would amount to abuse of the process of law and hence
the High Court ought to have exercised its inherent
powers under Section 482 to the extent of the abuse.
There is no requirement that the charge-sheet has to be
quashed as a whole and not in part. Accordingly, this
appeal is allowed. The supplementary report filed by the
police, at the direction of the Commission, is quashed.”

24. In view of the above facts, we find that the charges against the

appellant under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act are not made out.

Consequently, the charge-sheet to that extent is quashed. The
10 (2018) 13 SCC 612

13
appeal is disposed of in the above terms.

25. The FIR in respect of other offences will be tried by the competent

Court in accordance with law along with the criminal case 11, though

separately initiated, for the reason that it relates to interparty

dispute and is in respect of same subject matter of property,

despite of the fact that two different dates of the incident have

been provided by the parties.

………………………………………J.

(L. NAGESWARA RAO)

………………………………………J.

(HEMANT GUPTA)

………………………………………J.

(AJAY RASTOGI)
NEW DELHI;

NOVEMBER 5, 2020.

11 FIR No. 174 of 2019

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