SC/ST Act – When the Offence appears to be a Misuse of Law, the Court has the Power to Grant Anticipatory Bail: Chhattisgarh High Court

SC/ST Act – When the Offence appears to be a Misuse of Law, the Court has the Power to Grant Anticipatory Bail: Chhattisgarh High Court

legal point sc st court matters

Without beating about the bush and without leaving even an iota of doubt, the Chhattisgarh High Court in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Jawed Khan vs State of Chhattisgarh in CRA No. 604 of 2022 delivered as recently as on April 18, 2022 has minced just no words to state explicitly that when the offence of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 appears to be a misuse of law, the Court has the power to grant anticipatory bail. We thus see that having held so, the single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Shri Justice Deepak Kumar Tiwari thus granted anticipatory bail to an accused under SC/ST Act. Very rightly so.

To start with, the single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Shri Justice Deepak Kumar Tiwari who authored this extremely commendable, cogent, composed and convincing judgment sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The accused/appellant has filed this appeal under Section 14 (A) (2) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (for short “the SC/ST Act”) for grant of anticipatory bail in connection with Crime No.0005/2022 registered at Police Station Ajak Janjgir, District Janjgir-Champa for the offence punishable under Sections 294, 323 & 506 IPC and Sections 3 (1) (r), 3 (1) (s) & 3 (2) (va) of the SC/ST Act.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “As per the prosecution case, the victim who is posted as Panchayat Secretary has lodged an FIR on 15.03.2022 against the appellant who is posted as Up-Sarpanch in Village Pndidalha that on 22.01.2022 a Panchayat Meeting was held in which present appellant has made certain corrections in proposal register of Panchayat and when the complainant objected this act, the appellant abused him in filthy language. Thereafter, at about 2 PM the appellant again came there and abused him in the name of his caste, grab his collar and also threatened to kill him in presence of other members. Thereafter, the offence has been registered against the appellant under the aforesaid sections.”

As it turned out, the Bench then aptly discloses in para 3 that, “Learned counsel for the appellant submits that appellant is innocent and has been falsely implicated in the case. He submits that victim has lodged FIR only to create pressure upon the appellant to withdraw the complaints lodged by appellant regarding embezzlement of Government fund by Sarpanch and victim/Panchayat Secretary. Learned counsel has filed certain documents in support of his contention and submits that certain withdrawals have been made after the death of late Budhwara Bai. He further submits that CEO of Janpad Panchayat Akalatara vide letter dated 06.10.2021 addressed to the Collector, District Janjgir-Champa found certain negligence by the Gram Panchayat and recommended for necessary action. Learned counsel further submits that the appellant has not committed any offence as alleged against him. He has not made any filthy comment with intent to humiliate the complainant in public view. He submits that as such no incident took place, the witness Saroj Kumar and Vinod Kumar have given the representation to the Superintendent of Police, District Janjgir-Champa in support of the appellant. He also submits that FIR has been lodged with delay of almost two months and no explanation has been given in this regard. Therefore, considering all these aspects, the appellant may be granted anticipatory bail.”

No doubt, there appears to be a lot of merit in what the learned counsel for the appellant has submitted. He has produced reliable witnesses also in this regard. It also cannot be lightly dismissed that the appellant had lodged complaints regarding embezzlement of Government fund by Sarpanch and victim/Panchayat Secretary. In addition, it cannot be glossed over that there is an inexplicable delay of two months in lodging FIR.

On the contrary, the Bench then brings out in para 4 that, “Per contra, learned State counsel and counsel for the objector opposes the prayer for bail. Learned counsel for the objector puts forth his vehement opposition to the prayer for bail and submits that there is bar under Section 18 and 18-A of the SC/ST Act. He relying on the judgment passed in Swaran Singh and Others Vs. State through Standing Counsel reported in (2008) 8 SCC 435 in which it was held that calling a member of Scheduled Caste “chamar” with intent to insult or humiliate him in a place within public view is certainly an offence under Section 3(1) (x). Learned counsel for the objector further submits that the witnesses who have supported the case of the appellant have been pressurized by the appellant so they sent letter to concerned Superintendent of Police.  

As against what is stated above, the Bench then further goes on to add in the same para 4 that, “Opposing the said submission, learned counsel for the appellant submits that this is not the case where the incident took place on the ground of caste based atrocities, as the appellant has made certain allegations about the work of the complainant and the Gram Panchayat and as the complainant happened to be the member of such community he has taken the benefit of such category. He relies upon the judgment passed by Hon’ble the Supreme Court in the matter of Union of India Vs. State of Maharashtra and others, (2020) 4 SCC 761, wherein, it has been held thus in para 7.

“7. Section 18 of the 1989 Act has been enacted to take care of an inherent deterrence and to instill a sense of protection amongst the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It is submitted that any dilution of the same would shake the very objective of the mechanism to prevent the offences of atrocities. The directions issued would cause a miscarriage of justice even in deserving cases. With a view to object apprehended misuse of the law, no such direction can be issued. In case there is no prima facie case made out under the 1989 Act, anticipatory bail can be granted. The same was granted in the case in question also.””

Most significantly and so also most remarkably, the Bench then states what forms the cornerstone of this noteworthy judgment in para 5 wherein it is held that, “Having heard learned counsel for the parties and taking into consideration all the aspects including the nature of dispute, this Court is of the considered opinion that when the offence of SC/ST appears to be misuse of law, the Court has power to grant anticipatory bail, therefore, the accused/appellant can be granted anticipatory bail.”

Finally and far most significantly, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 6 that, “Accordingly, the appeal is allowed and it is directed that in the event of arrest of the appellant, on his furnishing a personal bond in the sum of Rs.25,000/- with one surety for the like sum to the satisfaction of the arresting Officer, he shall be released on bail on the following conditions:-

  • he shall make himself available for interrogation by a police officer as and when required,
  • he shall not directly or indirectly make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing such fact to the Court or to any police officer,
  • he shall not act in any manner which will be prejudicial to fair and expeditious trial,
  • he shall appear before the trial Court on each and every date given to them by the said Court till disposal of the trial,
  • he shall not involve himself in any offence of similar nature in future.”

All said and done, the long and short of this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment by a single Judge Bench of Chhattisgarh High Court comprising of Hon’ble Shri Justice Deepak Kumar Tiwari has been unequivocal in holding that when the offence of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 appears to be a misuse of law, the Court has the power to grant anticipatory bail. It goes without saying that laws are meant to be used and not to be blatantly misused. It merits no reiteration that it is the bounden duty of the courts to ensure that laws are used in any given case and not abused to deliberately frame an innocent person for no fault of his which cannot be justified nor allowed under any circumstances as that would clearly tantamount to making a complete mockery of justice and the rule of law! This is exactly what this notable judgment by Hon’ble Shri Deepak Kumar Tiwari seeks to precisely ensure and this is what also forms the real essence of this learned judgment. We thus see that the anticipatory bail is so very rightly granted in this deserving case by the Chhattisgarh High Court!

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