In this edition of the court judgements review, we look at the Supreme Court’s judgement that Utterances made in public should be added at least to the chargesheet for Court to check if there is an offence under SC/ST Act, Madras HC’s order that the books and uniforms are integral for education and the expense should be covered by the state for RTE students, Kerala HC’s guidelines about amicable settlement outside Courts in cases regarding sexual offences, among others.
SC: Utterances made in public should be added at least to the chargesheet for Court to check if there is an offence under SC/ST Act
In Ramesh Chandra Vaidya vs. State of Uttar Pradesh & Another, the appellant was charge-sheeted for alleged offences, including under section 3(1)(x) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that deals with intentional insults or intimidation with the intention to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place in public view. He is also alleged to have physically assaulted the complainant during an altercation. He claimed that even he had intended to file an FIR regarding the assault on him in the same incident and that the police did not register it. Instead, he claimed that he was challaned and detained by the police.
The appellant then approached the Allahabad High Court seeking quashing of the procedures against him stating that the chargesheet did not reveal any offence. However, the High Court dismissed his appeal due to its limited jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC. The matter was then raised with the Apex Court. The Supreme Court Bench of Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta observed that under section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act stresses that the insult or intimidation is such that it is targeted at the victim because they belong to a particular Scheduled Caste or Tribe. Not every insult will amount to an offence under the SC/ST Act. Using foul language to humiliate a person, who happens to belong to Scheduled Caste or Tribe, need not be an offence under 3(1)(x) unless the words are laced with casteist remarks.
Allowing the appeal, the Bench added that it would be desirable to add the utterances made by the accused in any place in public view at least in the chargesheet, if not the FIR so that the Court can check if the offence falls under the said section of the SC/ST Act.
Madras HC: Books and uniforms are integral for education and the expense should be covered by the state for RTE students
In M. Suveathan vs. The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Others, the minor’s father had filed a plea with the Madras High Court regarding a private school where the child was admitted, and who were charging additional fees. The child was admitted to a private, unaided matriculation school in the Vellore district under the 25% quota as per the provisions of the Right to Education Act. His parents had paid Rs. 5,340 and Rs. 6,437 as the fees for the next two academic years. However, the school demanded another Rs. 11,977 towards uniforms, study materials including textbooks and stationery, etc. The child was permitted to sit in class after the District Collector’s orders but was not provided with books, notes, and uniform.
Justice M Dhandapani allowed the petition and observed that uniforms, notebooks, and other reading materials are all necessary and form an integral part of education that is imparted to the petitioner under the Act. He emphasized that it is the duty of the State to provide free and compulsory education to the children who belong to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Disadvantaged Groups (DG). He rejected the state government’s argument that only tuition fees were mandated under the act for reimbursement for the students admitted under the Act. He directed the government’s school education secretary to issue instructions within two weeks to officials of the department and schools to not claim any amount from the children but lay claim on the state and that the state should defray all such expenses.
Kerala HC: Unique facts of each case regarding sexual offence should be considered for pleas to quash the criminal proceedings following amicable settlement outside Courts.
In Vishnu vs. State of Kerala & Another and other connected matters, a batch of cases involving individuals accused of sexual offences under the IPC or the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) was brought before the Court seeking quashing of the proceedings against them as they had reached an amicable settlement with the victims. Single Judge Bench of the Kerala High Court presided over by Justice Kauser Edappagath observed that each case should be decided based on its unique facts and circumstances. Within the purview of Section 482 of the CrPC, he laid down a broad set of principles to be considered when examining such pleas involving non-compoundable sexual offences against women and children through a compromise between the accused and the victim.
Many cases were related to prosecution for ‘sexual assault’ on a false promise of marriage. In such matters, the Court should consider if the allegation was that the accused had given a promise to the victim to marry, which at the inception was false and based on which the victim was induced into a sexual relationship. Without such an allegation or proof, the offence of rape will not be attracted in such cases.
In the acknowledged physical relationship between adults, the Court observed that the cases should be dropped if on perusal of the statement of the victim and the evidence collected during the investigation show that the intercourse was consensual.
In cases involving teenagers under POCSO Act, the Court stated that the petitions moved by the parent or guardian of the sexual assault victims to quash the criminal proceedings on the ground of compromise, the Court ought to consider whether the allegations prima facie constitute the ingredients of the offence, whether the settlement is in the best interest of the minor victim and whether the continuance of the proceedings against the accused and the participation of the minor victim in that proceedings would adversely affect the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of the victim.
For cases involving child sexual abuse by family members, the Court observed that the consent for settlement of the case by the victim need not be voluntary as there is the possibility that she is pressurised by the convict or by her own mother, who, in most cases, supports the accused. Thus, the court should consider the facts of the case and decide.
SC: Yawning gaps in investigation fails to establish the guilt of accused in rape and murder of 6-year-old
In Prakash Nishad @ Kewat Zinak Nishad vs. State of Maharashtra, the appellant was accused of rape and murder of a six-year-old in 2010. The girl’s body was found in a well. Investigation revealed that the girl was raped and murdered and thrown into the well to dispose of the evidence. The Trial Court convicted him of rape and murder of a minor child and for concealing evidence and imposed capital punishment on him. The Bombay High Court also affirmed the Trial Court’s decision, following which the accused approached the Supreme Court.
The Court observed that the following were considered for holding him guilty.
- The appellant was residing in the same chawl as that of the prosecutrix.
- He was found near the scene of the crime.
- He made disclosure statements which led to the recovery of incriminating articles from the house of the appellant and another place where he had allegedly hidden the clothes belonging to him and the prosecutrix.
- The DNA reports were prepared on scientific analysis by an expert, establishing the blood of the prosecutrix on the banian of the appellant and his semen on the clothes of the prosecutrix and her vaginal smear slide.
However, the Court observed that there were many lapses in the investigation. For instance, there was nothing on record to establish who took such DNA samples, on what date, on how many occasions and why were they not sent all at once. Further, there was no explanation for the month-long delay in sending the samples for analysis because of which the possibility of contamination cannot be ruled out. Discrepancies were also observed in the statements of the witnesses. Due to ‘yawning’ gaps in the investigation, the Court freed the accused of all the charges.
SC: An accused can be discharged only if no case is made out even after believing the evidence produced by prosecution
The facts of the case ‘Captain Manjit Singh Virdi (Retd.) vs. Hussain Mohammed Shattaf & Others’ started in 2006 when an FIR was lodged at Lonawala City Police Station for the murder of one Manmohan Singh Sukhdev Singh Virdi (the appellant’s brother). His body was found lying in a pool of blood in his bedroom. After the investigation, a charge sheet was filed in 2009 against the accused persons stating that while one of the accused was staying in Dubai, his wife was in a physical relationship with the deceased. For revenge, he conspired to kill the deceased along with the other accused. The Trial Court dismissed the revision application for the discharge of the respondents. However, the Bombay High Court set aside the Trial Court’s order and discharged the respondents.
In the appeal in front of the Supreme Court, the division bench of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Rajesh Bindal observed that the High Court had not even referred to the evidence collected by the police presented along with the charge sheet. Psychological Evaluations including Psychological Profiling, Polygraph Testing and Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature Profiling (BEOS) were conducted on the respondent and his aides. The Court stated that at the stage of hearing the charges, the entire evidence produced by the prosecution is to be believed and if no offence is made out, then only an accused can be discharged. Setting aside the High Court’s decision, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal.