People  ill-treated even today because they belong to SC/ST: Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently voiced its concern over the rising crimes against people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC and ST). The HC said that these people are ill-treated even today, only because they belong to SC or ST category.

A bench of Justice Arun Dhavale made the observation while turning down an application filed by a man seeking pre-arrest relief. He was booked under charges of the SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities) law for hurling casteist abuses against a constable.

According to the prosecution, the accused harassed and abused the constable as he had filed a complaint against his sister, who was also a constable. He had threatened the constable of tying a broomstick to his back and of parading his family on a donkey.

The accused argued that he cannot be denied bail as there was no sufficient evidence with the prosecution to prosecute him. He further claimed that the case did not warrant his custodial interrogation and that he would not abscond if granted pre-arrest relief.

Having heard the contentions, Justice Dhavale, said, “It may be observed that there are a large number of offences under SC and ST Act. As per Article 17 of the Constitution of India, the untouchability has been abolished and the object of the SC-ST Act is to see that nobody practices untouchability.”

“However, it is common knowledge that persons from SC and ST categories still face ill-treatment in various forms only on account of the fact that they belong to SC or ST category. Therefore, if such an offence is disclosed, the court will not exercise the powers of granting anticipatory bail,” Justice Dhavale added.

The bench further noted that there are several cases in which the only allegations are about hurling casteist abuses with an intention to insult or humiliate coupled with some minor assaults.

“Indeed, when the FIR shows specific averments disclosing the commission of offences under SC ST act, it is very difficult at the initial stage to determine whether the FIR is lodged for wreaking vengeance or motivated and false or otherwise is true,” Justice Dhavale noted.

“If the offences are not serious and there is no likelihood of tampering of prosecution witnesses or there is no likelihood of the accused absconding after the arrest, the court grants regular bail. In such cases, the custodial investigation is also not necessary,” Justice Dhavale held.

The court further said that in such cases, the police cannot arrest a person to harass him, who is presumed to be innocent. “A person cannot be arrested only to please the informant or the victim.

The basic intention of arrest is to explore the possibility of a quality investigation by interrogation of the accused and thereafter the detention is only with an intention to prevent the abscondance or tampering of the evidence,” Justice Dhavale said.

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