38.6c New Delhi, India, Monday, June 17, 2024
Judiciary

Abuse under SC/ST Act has to be in public view to make out offence: SC [Read Judgment]

By Jhanak Singh      18 May, 2024 05:45 PM      0 Comments
Abuse under SC ST Act has to be in public view to make out offence SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has declared that an intentional insult or abuse coupled with the humiliation is to made in any place within public views in order to make an offence under the Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

A bench of Justices M M Sundresh and S V N Bhatti said the expression “in any place within public view” has an important role to play in deciding whether the allegation attracts the ingredients of an offence or not.

"An important test for “in any place within public view” is within the view of persons other than the complainant," the bench said.

In its judgment on May 17, the bench court allowed an appeal by Priti Agarwalla and others, who were parents and trainee athletes of the Olympic Riding and Equestrian Academy, against the order to lodge the FIR for offences under the SC/ST Act on a complaint by an international horse riding champion.

Arguing for appellants, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra contended the administrator of OREA instigated the complainant to file a complaint alleging offences, though none existed over the years, after the official was unsuccessful in getting anticipatory bail in FIRs lodged against him.

He said the magistrate carefully considered the complaint filed under Section 156(3) of Criminal Procedure Code and applied his judicial mind in seeking action taken report from the police, which found no ground to proceed in the matter.

He also said the WhatsApp conversation prima facie does not attract any of the ingredients constituting an offence under section 3(1)(r) of the Act of 1989.

On the opposite, advocate Kapil Modi, who was the administrator of the academy, contended the complaint disclosed cognisable offences and he suffered in silence the caste slurs for months and years, and mere delay would not lead to any adverse inference.

The bench, however, said there cannot be two views on the proposition that to cause or register an FIR and consequential investigation based on the same 
petition filed under section 156(3) of the CrPC, the complaint satisfies the essential ingredients of the offences alleged. In other words, if such allegations in the petition are vague and do not specify the alleged offences, it cannot lead to an order for registration of an FIR and investigation, it said.

The bench said the allegations read together or individually do not satisfy the requirement of having been made in public view.

The court said in a case such as the present, directing registration of FIR and further steps is unsustainable.

Going through the power under Section 156(3) of the CrPC, the court said the Magistrate asks himself a question whether the complaint, as presented, makes out a case for directing the registration of an FIR or calls for inquiry or report from the jurisdictional police station. The inner and outer limit of the exercise of this jurisdiction is on a case-to-case basis dependent on the complaint, nature of allegations and offence set out by such a complaint.

The Magistrate does not act mechanically and exercises his discretion judiciously by applying mind to the circumstances complained of and the offence alleged against the accused for taking one or the other step. To cause or register an FIR and consequential investigation based on the same petition filed under section 156(3) of the CrPC, he has to examine whether the complaint satisfies the essential ingredients of the offences alleged. In other words, if such allegations in the petition are vague and do not specify the alleged offences, it cannot lead to an order for registration of an FIR and investigation, the court said.

The bench also found acrimonious allegations and counter-allegations were made between parties and a total of 15 complaints were filed against each other.

"A doubt arises whether someone who cannot calm oneself can calm and guide a horse in the horse’s enthusiasm to perform each element with minimum encouragement from the rider and be an equestrian. We leave it to the passion and path of the parties," the bench said.

On a connected appeal by the Delhi government against order to lodge the FIR against the SHO for negligent act, the bench said the commission or omission of any of the duties by the public servant becomes a cognisable offence against the public servant only on the recommendation of the administrative enquiry, for in law, an offence means any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force.

"The competent court can take cognisance of the commission or omission of any duty specified under sub-section (2) of Section 4 when made along with the recommendation and direct legal proceedings. Therefore, to constitute a prima facie case of negligence of duty, the proviso to subsection (2) of Section 4  contemplates an administrative enquiry and recommendations," the bench said.

The court noted the Olympic Riding and Equestrian Academy, Eastern Jaunapur, New Delhi is a training facility for enthusiastic equestrian athletes. Kapil Nath Modi administers and runs the said training facility.

The equestrian sport dates back to the ancient Greek era and has been an Olympic sport from 1900 onwards. 

The dressage sport is popularly known as horse ballet. The riders and their horses are judged based on their movement, calmness, suppleness and flexibility. One judges the horse’s enthusiasm to perform each element with minimum encouragement from the rider. For strangers to the sport, including non equestrian athletes, this sport displays the perfect sync between the horse and the rider.

The controversy considered in the present appeal reflected whether the athletes under training at OREA, who wanted to control the mind and body of a horse, have lost the calmness, suppleness and flexibility while being trained at OREA, the bench said.

[Read Judgment]
 



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