Only caste barbs in public an offence: SC
New Delhi, March 31: The Supreme Court has said that disparaging
remarks made about a person's caste in his absence and in close
confines of a home or room will not amount to an offence under the
Under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,
1989, only an accused who intentionally insults or intimidates with
intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe
in any place "within public view" is liable for prosecution, the court
A bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma delivered the
judgment while quashing a case under the act against a private school
headmistress accused of insulting a neighbour over his caste at his
home while he himself was away.
The court made it clear in its ruling on Tuesday that such remarks
would have to be necessarily made in the person's presence "in any
place within public view".
Asmathunissa and her husband Samiduddin, who ran the Little Star
School in Hyderabad's upscale Gayatri Hills area, had barged into the
house of a local resident who had complained of noise pollution caused
by their institution.
The couple allegedly referred in derogatory terms to his caste while
threatening his wife Sridevi, according to the police complaint filed
by the victims.
Asmathunissa and her husband were then charged under different
sections of the SC/ST Act.
They moved Andhra Pradesh High Court seeking to quash the complaint
but their plea was turned down. Asmathunissa and her husband then
appealed the order.
In the apex court, their lawyer argued that Asmathunissa had never
uttered the offending words, which were spoken by her husband and she
was merely accompanying him.
The lawyer then contended that in Samiduddin's case, even if he did
utter the offending words, Sridevi's husband, the object of the
remarks, was not at home.
"In the absence of the aggrieved person present at that point of time,
no offence can be made out against the appellant (Samiduddin)," the
He then made the second key point, saying the entire incident took
place at Sridevi's residence and not in any place in public. "None of
the ingredients of this offence are present in the case. Even if the
contents of the complaint in its entirety are taken as correct and
true, no offence is made out against the appellant," the lawyer said.
The apex court accepted the arguments and quashed the complaint. The
bench quoted an earlier judgement in this context which said that
dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious
substance in the premises or neighbourhood of a person from a lower
caste need not necessarily be done in his presence to be treated as an
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