Mumbai: The Bombay High Court bench of Justices Vishwas Jadhav and Shrikant Kulkarni at the Aurangabad seat on Friday quashed an FIR lodged against five men - all booked for allegedly abetting the suicide of a man, who had left food and water for a month before his death owing to the continuous harassment at the hands of these men from 2010. These men were even booked under provisions of the stringent Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as the deceased belonged to a reserved category.
According to the prosecution case, in September 2010, now deceased Bansi Gavali had signed a sale deed of his 3 acres land with accused Sayed Rahim for the consideration of Rs three lakh. As per the agreement, the parties had agreed for re-conveyance of the said land if Gavali pays an amount of Rs 4.5 lakh.
However, after some time when Gavali wanted his land back and agreed to pay Rs 4.5 lakh, Sayed refused to comply and demanded Rs 10 lakh from him. Despite several requests from Gavali, Sayed along with four of his friends allegedly kept abusing and intimidating him.
Things went on like this for a decade and finally in January 2020, Gavali gave up food and water due to the immense harassment and mental torture and subsequently died in February 2020.
Gavali's son alleged that his father died due to the torture meted out to him by the five men and urged the bench not to quash the FIR as his father's death should be considered in the category of suicide. He even highlighted the fact that his father was abused in name of his caste and thus SC/ST law would prevail.
Having perused the bare FIR, the bench noted that it didn't mention even a single instance of Gavali being abused in name of his caste publicly.
"From the allegations made in the FIR it is difficult to accept, even prima facie, that Gavali's death falls into the definition of suicide. In the first part of the FIR it is alleged that since the year 2010 onwards, continuous harassment was allegedly caused by the accused to Gavali and they humiliated him, which resulted in the deceased giving up food and succumbed to death falling in the category of suicide, which is difficult to digest in the above scenario," the judges opined.
"Mere refusal to execute re-conveyance deed cannot be a ground of continuous harassment. The legal remedies were available to Gavali," the judges said.
The bench further took into account, Gavali's death certificate which indicated that it was a natural death since he died due to heart ailments.
As far as the alleged suicide note submitted by Gavali's son is concerned, the bench noted that it was vague and had no mention of the alleged harassment and also the names of the accused.
On the contention of caste-based insults, the bench said, "No date and time is mentioned, whether such incident was morning time or evening time. It can be safely said that those allegations might have been levelled against the accused only with a view to give another colour and to make the alleged incident more severe to put pressure on the accused," the judges held.
The bench while referring to the provisions of the SC/ST law, said, "Intentional insults or intimidations with intent to humiliate a member of a SC and ST, in any place within public view, are the basics to attract the law. But all insults or intimidations to a person will not be an offence under this law unless such insult or intimidation is on account of victim belonging to reserved category."
"The object of this law is to improve the socio-economic conditions of the SC/ST as they are denied number of civil rights. Thus, an offence under this law would be made out when a member of the vulnerable section of the Society is subjected to indignities, humiliations and harassment," the judges ruled while quashing the FIR.