Man acquits after 17 years in SC-ST act, HC quashes conviction in false case

Chandigarh: In a significant development, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has quashed the 17-year-old conviction of a man in an SC and ST case. The appeal against the conviction was filed by Rajbir Singh, who had been held guilty and sentenced to one year of imprisonment under Section 3 of the SC and ST Act by a trial court in 2006.

The complainant, a member of the SC, had alleged that Rajbir Singh had made casteist remarks and uttered abuses against her. The incident was reported to the police on May 24, 2005, and a complaint was lodged under Section 3(1)(x) of the SC and ST Act.

Advocate Preeti Manderna, the counsel for appellant Rajbir Singh, argued that the incident did not take place within public view as no person had gathered at the spot. The defence contended that there was no evidence to prove that the offence was committed solely on the grounds of the victim’s caste, and the conviction under Section 3 of the SC and ST Act was unsustainable. The defence also highlighted that there was an ongoing dispute between Harijans and agriculturists in the village, and the appellant was falsely implicated due to this enmity.

After hearing the matter, Justice NS Shekhawat observed that to attract the offense under the SC and ST Act, the offender should intentionally insult or intimidate a member of the scheduled caste or tribe with the intent to humiliate them in a place within public view. The court further stated that if the accused abused the complainant using the caste name during a quarrel or due to some other reason, it would not automatically constitute an offense under Section 3(1)(x) of the SC and ST Act.

The Bench, upon examining the facts presented by the complainant, found that even if they were accepted as true, they did not establish the commission of the offense under Section 3(1)(x) of the SC and ST Act against the appellant. Additionally, the court noted an unexplained delay of two days in lodging the complaint, which raised doubts about the commission of the offense.

Therefore, the High Court set aside the conviction by the Special Court of Bathinda, stating that there were doubts regarding the offense, and the evidence provided was insufficient to support the conviction.

This judgment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court has significant implications in cases related to SC and ST acts and will likely have an impact on similar cases in the future.

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