The Karnataka High Court has quashed a case against a person charged under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, (SC/ST Act) while observing that every crime against a member of the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe cannot be termed as an offence under the Act. Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar observed that it was merely a case of land dispute and no ingredients of offences under the Act were fulfilled through the chargesheet.
The petitioner was charged under sections 3(1)(f) (wrongfully occupying land) and 3(1)(g) (dispossessing person from land) of SC/ST Act and moved this petition to quash the case against him. The allegations were that the petitioner laid claim upon the land belonging to the complainant, and then obtained revenue records to his name besides getting land converted for non-agricultural purpose.
The counsel for the petitioner argued that the dispute is purely civil in nature and that this is a false case under SC/ST Act. The public prosecutor argued that since chargesheet has been filed the petitioner has to stand for trial and there can be no interference under section 482 of CrPC for quashing. The counsel for the complainant/respondent argued that the petitioner intended to snatch the property of the complainant who belongs to scheduled caste community, and hence he has been continuously litigating from one court to another. He contended that the petitioner’s intention was to harass him and if this case is quashed, it will be a grave injustice to the complainant.
The court observed that for invoking section 3(1)(f) fo the SC/ST Act, the land of a member of scheduled caste or scheduled tribe must be wrongfully occupied or cultivated by a person not belonging to these communities. Here wrongfully means against the will of the SC member or without consent, or if consent is under threat or by fabricating records. The court observed that the chargesheet does not disclose any of these ingredients.
Further, for invoking section 3(1)(g) there is no material to indicate wrongful dispossession of wrongful interference with his land. The court deemed it to be a case of land dispute.
“The primary requirement for invoking any of the offences under section (of SC/ST Act) is caste based attack of hatred towards that caste,” the court said. “Unless the investigation indicates or reveals intention of a person not belonging to scheduled caste or scheduled tribe to commit any of the offence under section 3 of the Act, in order to oppress or insult or humiliate or subjugate or ridicule a member of scheduled caste or scheduled tribe as such person merely belongs to that caste, the offence under section 3 cannot be invoked in the chargesheet,” the court added.
The court also reasoned that it is not as though every crime committed against a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe member will be termed as ‘atrocity’ or be considered as offence under the SC/ST Act.
“If motive for crime is not casteist attack, the accused can only be chargesheeted for any of the offences under Indian Penal Code that can be appropriately invoked in the background of the incident of crime or under other law which can be applied as the facts and circumstances indicate.”
The court thus allowed the petition and quashed the proceedings under the SC/ST Act against the petitioner.
The judgment may be read here: