Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court
Litigation News

Prima facie, casteist slur against Scheduled Caste person in their courtyard attracts penalty under SC/ST Act: Kerala HC

The Court took a prima facie view that making a casteist slur against a person belonging to a scheduled community in their courtyard would amount to “an insult in a place in public view”, punishable under the SC/ST Act.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The Kerala High Court has held that making a derogatory remark against a person belonging a scheduled caste or tribe in their courtyard would amount to “an insult in a place in public view”, punishable under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Vishak and Anr. v. State of Kerala and Ors.).

The Court through Justice PB Suresh Kumar held thus while disposing of a bail plea moved by two men accused of assault, making a casteist slur, and molesting a woman in her courtyard. The woman belongs to a Scheduled Caste.

Charged with offences under the SC/ST Act as well as under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the accused applied to the Kozhikode Sessions Court for anticipatory bail. The application was rejected citing their being charged with offences under the SC/ST Act, which expressly bars such an application.

In their appeal to the High Court, the accused averred that:

  1. The charges were not borne out by the facts and that they did not molest the woman, and,

  2. The alleged slur, being made in the courtyard of a house, was not “within public view” as required for an offence under the Act.

For the second contention, the Counsel for the accused relied on a ruling by the Apex Court, which illustrated what constituted a place in public view (Swaran Singh v. State of Punjab).

In that case, the Supreme Court had held,

"... the gate of a house is certainly a place within public view. It could have been a different matter had the alleged offence been committed inside a building, and also was not in the public view. However, if the offence is committed outside the building e.g. in a lawn outside a house, and the lawn can be seen by someone from the road or lane outside the boundary wall, the lawn would certainly be a place within the public view. Also, even if the remark is made inside a building, but some members of the public are there (not merely relatives or friends) then also it would be an offence since it is in the public view... "

Justice Suresh Kumar, in his order, accepted that the place of occurrence of the offence had to be considered before determining whether a place was in “public view”.

However, the question of whether an offence was attracted was ultimately before the Trial Court, he held.

Stating that the Court was left with determining the existence of a prima facie case in order to adjudge the bail appeal, he found the courtyard to be a “place in public view” prima facie.

Because the place of incident was the courtyard of the complainant’s house, it could not be contended that it was not a place in public view, Justice Kumar reasoned.

"True, the Apex court took the view in the said case that the court has to see the place of occurrence to ascertain whether the place is within public view… In so far as the place of occurrence is the courtyard of the house of the defacto complainant, according to me, it cannot be contended prima facie that it is not a place within public view."
Justice PB Suresh Kumar held

Stating thus, the appeal was dismissed, with a clarification that the applicants were free to seek regular bail if they so desired.

Read the Judgment here:

Vishak v. State of Kerala and Ors. - Judgment dated July 27, 2020.pdf
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news