Comments have to be made within public view, to punish a person for Casteist Insults Under SC/ ST Act: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, while deciding a case arising out of a complaint made for an offence under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Act), observed that an allegation of insult has to satisfy the requirement of having been made within public view.

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a person cannot be prosecuted for alleged offences under the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act unless casteist remarks were made in “public view” with an intention to humiliate.

The bench of Justices M.M Sundresh and S.V.N. Bhatti passed the verdict while setting aside a Delhi High Court judgment that had taken a contrary view and directed the registration of an FIR against Priti Agarwalla and five others besides the station house officer of Fatehpur Beri police station.


The appellants were represented by senior advocate Sidharth Luthra while complainant Praveen Kumar aka Prashant was represented by Kapil Nath Modi. Besides being an advocate, Modi is the administrator of the Olympic Riding and Equestrian Academy, Eastern Jaunapur, New Delhi (OREA).

Praveen and most of the appellants used to train at the OREA where skirmishes reportedly broke out, resulting in the filing of complaints and counter-complaints.


Modi submitted that the appellants often hurled casteist slurs at Praveen, saying equestrian sports were meant for the rich and not a “Chamar” like him.

However, Luthra said the allegations were fabricated. He maintained that the offence alleged against the appellants was stated under Sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. To constitute an offence under Section 3(1)(r), the complaint must aver that the commission or omission had been made in public view, he said.

He added that the complaint did not satisfy the required ingredients of an offence under the Act.

Agreeing with the arguments, Justice Bhatti said Section 3(1)(r) of the SC, ST Act identifies as an offence an intentional insult or intimidation intended to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in public view.

“The cumulative effect of the structured application to a given situation is that the intentional insult or abuse coupled with the humiliation is made in any place within public view. 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,” Justice Bhatti observed.

“The accusation of intentionally abusing and humiliating Respondent No. 2 (Praveen) spans over a period of two years between 2016 and 2018. The allegation prima facie appears to be an omnibus and ambiguous allegation.”

The bench said the specific allegation in the complaint on Appellant No. 2 is that Appellant No. 2 had called Respondent No. 2 “Chuda” and “Chamar”, among other things.

“The allegation does not refer to the place nor the public view before whom it was made. An important test for ‘in any place within public view’ is within the view of persons other than the complainant,” the apex court noted.

“In this case, we are not examining whether OREA is a private or public place, but to appreciate the alleged offence. We juxtapose the allegation(s) with the requirement of insulting or intimidating in any place within public view is satisfied or not.”


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