Vetrivel Vs. State represented by its Deputy Superintendent of Police

Introduction:

The case depicts Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Section 323 of IPC states the punishment for causing voluntary hurt with three essential ingredients that is the accused had caused hurt to the victim, the hurt caused was voluntary in nature and the same offence is not covered under Section 334 of IPC. If these conditions are met then the person shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or a fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both. Though Section 323 is a bailable offence but if the essentials are met and the hurt is voluntary in nature then the accused have to go through the prescribed punishments in the foresaid section. Section 3 of SC and ST Act states punishment for offences of atrocities that is enacted to prevent discrimination and prohibit crime against these caste and tribe. In this case section 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) is considered by the court which read as follows: Punishments for offences atrocities: Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe:

(r) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view;

(s) abuses any member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe by caste name in any place within public view.

The Act prescribes punishment to the offence too. The minimum punishment is six months imprisonment while the maximum is five years sentence with fine. In some cases, the minimum punishment is till one year while the maximum extends up to life imprisonment or even death sentence.


Facts:

The facts of the case are as follows:

The Respondent run a tailoring shop along with her husband. They had taken the shop on a rental basis from Chinnathambi who is the owner of the shop. The present appellant is the relative of the owner of the shop. The appellant is the brother of Mekala and their father is the brother of the owner of the shop. There was a quarrel between Mekala and the children of the respondent. As a result of the quarrel, the appellant supporting Mekala insisted the respondent to vacate the tailoring shop. According to the prosecution, this incident took place on 30th August 2014 in front of the tailoring shop. After that an allegation was made that the appellant who is not a member of the scheduled caste or scheduled tribe, abused and the respondent who is a member of the scheduled caste. The allegation stated that the appellant used certain obscene words about the respondent in front of the shop. It was also alleged that the appellant insulted the respondent by mentioning her caste and also caught hold of the respondent by holding her hair and pulled her which caused injury on the cheeks of the respondent.

Judgement:

The conviction of the appellant was looked upon by the learned Judge of the Special Court for the offences punishable under Section 3(1)(r) and Section 3(1)(s) of the Atrocities Act and under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code. The appellant was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 1000 and a rigorous imprisonment for 3 years for the first two offences. He was also sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 1 year and a fine of Rs.1000 for the third offence.

Though the substantive sentence by the Special Court was reduced to two years, the conviction of the appellant was confirmed by the High Court for all the three offences.

The learned Senior Counsel Shri S. Nagamuthu assumed and submitted that the prosecution case was true and also submitted a false complaint had been filed. He submitted that as per record the appellant had undergone a sentence of 5 months and 25 days. Therefore, for now, the appellant had undergone sentence for more than 9 months. Lastly, he submitted that this case is fit for the Court to let off the appellant on the sentence which is already undergone.

The learned Standing Counsel Dr. Joseph Aristotle representing the State of Tamil Nadu contended that the incident had occurred in a public place and the appellant is guilty of an objectionable conduct of pulling the respondent’s hair. He submitted that the High Court has already shown some leniency by degrading the substantive sentence to two years. Hence, no indulgence should be shown by this Court.

The offences punishable under the above-mentioned Sections, the minimum sentence is of 6 months which might extend to 5 years and fine. The judgment of the learned Special Judge had shown that the case was proceeded considering the age of the appellant and other circumstances. And meanwhile the High Court has also not given reasons for the sentence of 2 years.

Thus, the appellant had to pay a fine of Rs.25000 for the three and on default of the payment of fine, the appellant had to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of 3 months. The appeal was partly allowed and the substantive sentence imposed on the appellant was brought down to rigorous imprisonment for 1 year and the fine to be paid to the respondent.

All the pending applications, if any, were to be disposed of.


Conclusion:

This case provides a glimpse of how the Court should step aside from a conservative legal reasoning ensure that constitutional goals are met. This case also shows the prevention of atrocities act 1989 which emerged as a boon for the untouchables. And how the court gave respect and status to the schedule caste in the society. Therefore, the court should always protect basic human rights and principles of justice, equality, liberty, fraternity and punish those who go against these rights or say obscene words to a particular section in the society because we all are humans firstly and we all should upheld these pillars of justice.



This article is written by Aanchal Kothari of Amity University, Mumbai.

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