SC/ST Act: Merely because crime is reported, immediate arrest need not be made

The High Court of Telangana however clarified that this observation was being made as the petition was filed within 4 days of registration of crime


The Telangana High Court stated that immediate arrest may not be made merely on registration of crime under the the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act). Justice P Naveen Rao made this observation while dealing with a case seeking arrest of an MLA who allegedly made casteist remarks against a journalist belonging to Scheduled Tribe (ST) community.

The petitioner is a journalist who published a report about an MLA from Patancheru Assembly constituency alleging land grabbing incidents. The MLA allegedly telephoned the petitioner and threatened him with dire consequences, abused him and his parents using filthy language and in the name of his caste. The petitioner recorded the entire conversation. Thus, an FIR was lodged under IPC as well as SC/ST Act.

Since the police had not arrested the MLA and no progress was made in the investigation, the petition was filed seeking directions. The Petitioner stated that if there is delay in arrest of the fifth respondent, it would vitiate the whole process of investigation, undermining the confidence reposed by people belonging to Scheduled caste and Scheduled Tribes in the State. He also challenged the inaction of police by not arresting the MLA. The petitioner pleaded that the court exercise extra-ordinary jurisdiction and direct the respondent-police to forthwith arrest the MLA. The petitioner had also made extensive submissions of evidence of photographs showing damage caused to his property by the MLA’s henchmen.

The petitioner further submitted that the inaction by the police amounts to dereliction of their solemn duties and in not rising to the occasion by taking action against a public representative, when he was victimising, harassing and threatening the petitioner. Further since the petitioner is an ST and the Act protects him from such harassment and humiliation, the same should be dealt “with firmly and if immediate action is not taken against public representatives, it would send wrong signals to the public at large”.

The court cited an apex court precedent set in Sakiri Vasu v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2008) 2 SCC 409 and held that “ordinarily the writ Court should not interfere, unless in the peculiar facts of a case, Court notices grave illegalities committed by police and that police were negligent in investigating into the crime and allowing the accused to go Scot-free or not preventing the accused from committing more crimes”.

The court observed that the writ petition was filed within four days of reporting the crime and hence it cannot be said that police have not acted diligently in investigating the crime and in not arresting the MLA. Further, the court held that merely because crime is reported under the SC/ST Act, straightaway the accused has to be arrested. The court however, clarified that the observations were made only with regard to the fact that the petition was filed within such a short time of crime being reported. “It is made clear that in the process of investigation into the crime, it is open to Police to take all measures as required by law against accused, if so warranted, arresting the fifth respondent, requiring them adopting such course,” stated the court.

Further, the petitioner also sought protection from police and since no specific pleading was made in the petition, the court held that the petitioner was at liberty to appropriate application to the Deputy Superintendent of Police enlisting the alleged threat perception of the petitioner to his person, family and property and requesting to provide protection to him.

The complete order may be read here.



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