SCHEDULED-CASTES-AND-TRIBES-PREVENTION-OF-ATROCITIES-ACT- law insider in

Use and Misuse of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes Act

Inclusive of data and comments by HC and SC

Dhruva Vig

Ever since the inception of legal systems in India, there has been a long-standing pugnacious discourse surrounding the varied and cross-cutting dimensions of law vis. the caste realities in India. Although, we as a society may have taken a few critical steps in guaranteeing an acceptable level of formal equality for all classes of citizens and have made significant strides in such pursuit, yet the systemic deficiencies both on the outlook and in the public domain continue to challenge our constitutional promise of social equity.

Perhaps the most peculiar of dimensions of our Indian legal system lies in its legislation related to caste. The Constitution warrants equal rights to all citizens, and interdicts any discrimination on grounds of caste, religion, race, sex, or place of birth. However, it likewise provides a series of special provisions, which appear to contradict and discriminate precisely on the aforementioned grounds.

In recent years, more caste-related laws have been enacted for the protection and upliftment of unprivileged sections of our society. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 can be regarded as perhaps the most important piece of legislation in recent years in furtherance of such upliftment. It drills down a progression of offences that generally constitute violations of criminal law under various statutes of law.

The SC/ST Act has sanctioned these crimes with a special status, as “offences of atrocities”, which allows for more severe punishments than similar violations would receive under the general penal code. So, what gives these violations their extraordinary status to be regarded as “atrocities”?

The answer lies in the fact that the perpetrator of such violation is not a member of a SC/ST community, while the victim of is. In this article, we shall endeavor to find out the instances relating to such violations against the minorities of India, and the exploitation of its laws thereof.

Object of the Act

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (hereinafter as the SC/ST Act) aims to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, by providing for Special Courts and the Exclusive Special Courts for the trial of such violations made under the Act, and for the redress and rehabilitation of the victims of such violations and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Regardless of various legal measures that have been implemented to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, they remain assailable to the dangers of social injustice and repression. They are denied number of civil rights by being subjected to various offences including indignities, humiliations, and harassment to name a few.

They have, in a few brutal occurrences, been deprived of their life and property as well, all for the virtue of belonging to a particular community. Crimes of grave nature are being committed against them till this date for various historical, social, and economic reasons.

In light of the awareness that has been created amongst the members of the SC/ST community through spread of education, etc., there have been several attempts to assert their rights and attest their due status, and such a defiance from their part has not been taken very kindly by the oppressors.

When they assert their rights by either resisting practices of untouchability against them, or by demanding a statutory minimum wage for their work, or refuse to do any bonded and forced labour, the people with vested interests who try to cow them down and terrorise them are often left with a loathsome feeling of disrespect to their culture.

In instances where they try to preserve their self-respect or honour of their women, they are often labelled as irritants for the dominant and the mighty sects of the society. The very act of engaging in occupation and cultivation of the Government allotted land is often resented, and more often than not, these people end up being victims of attacks by the vested interests.

Of late, there has been a steady increment in the disturbing trend of commission of certain atrocities against these people. Be it attacks and mass killings of helpless Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, or rape of women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, there does not seem to be an end to all of this.

The situation being what it is, the current laws that are in place, like the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the general provisions of the Indian Penal Code have been found to be insufficient to deter such violations. A special enactment to prevent crimes against such unprivileged sections of society committed by non-Scheduled Castes and non-Scheduled Tribes is therefore a necessity.

The term ‘atrocity’ has not been defined so far in the Indian legal system. Thus, it was considered necessary by the committee that not only the term ‘atrocity’ should be defined in this Act, but also, stringent measures must be introduced to provide for higher punishments for committing such atrocities.

The act also encourages for the States and the Union territories to implement specific preventive and punitive measures for the protection of SC/ST community from being victimised, and where such atrocities are committed, to provide adequate relief and assistance to rehabilitate them.

Concept of Intelligible differentia

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution has guaranteed that, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” Thus, there is a bar on ‘class legislation’, but is also allows for a reasonable classification under such legislation for treating certain classes of persons differently under certain conditions circumstances.

It must also be noted that the Supreme Court of India has reiterated the fact that such classifications must fulfil two conditions:

“(i) the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguish persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group and (ii) such differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.”[1]

Thus, the reasoning behind such classification classification may be established upon different bases, but there must always be a nexus between the basis and the object of the legislation so enacted. The laws that lay down such exceptional provisions for certain castes shall also be subject to such test of reasonable classification.

From the past few years, a growing trend can be observed where a multitude of caste organisations have demanded access to caste-based benefits, “solemnly setting forth their desire to be considered backward and included in the Schedules for special treatment”. “Inclusion in the lists is regarded more as a coveted prize than as a reflection of backwardness”.[2] Some of the groups have been eager to display their discontent with violence for not being classified as SCs and have strongarmed the Governments to act on their own convenience. The most notable example of this was the recent Jaat reservation agitation in the year 2016, where the protestors had sought inclusion of their caste in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category.[3]

Grounds for Such Classification

By and large, judges as well as policy makers have addressed this question by alluding to the supposed structure of the caste system in India, and the historic injustice it has caused. The depiction of ‘fourfold caste’ or varna hierarchy that organizes Hindu society has been taken into account generally, and how there exists a class of Untouchables outside the caste system or at the bottom of the hierarchy.

As indicated by this record, the rundown of these Scheduled Castes ought to encompass the formerly Untouchable Castes, who suffered from severe social disabilities All in all, the contention rests upon the issue of untouchability, and the ill-treatment and backwardness related to it. This has also been adopted by the Government as the official criterion.

In the year 1965, the government had established the Lokur Committee with the intent to revise the SC lists, which had adopted “the test of extreme social, educational and economic backwardness of castes, arising out of traditional practice of untouchability”.[4] More recently, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has affirmed this equation.[5]

Historical Background

There have been several attempts in classifying untouchables/depressed classes in India. In 1919, upon the recommendations of Southborough Franchise Committee it was proposed to “divide the Hindu community into three classes, Brahmins, non-Brahmins and others, and in the category of ‘others’, it included only the Untouchables”.[6]

The test of untouchability was adopted to identify the Depressed Classes, while the Statutory Commission defined this criterion as “causes pollution by touch or by approach within a certain distance”. The Indian Central Committee also proposed the concept of ‘Depressed Classes’ to “those who are classed as untouchables”[7]

The views presented by Ambedkar in his undelivered speech “Annihilation of Caste”, he mentions that the very concept of Hinduism as a religion was to be blamed for this caste discrimination, since it regarded the caste system as a divinely sanctioned institution.[8]

As per Gandhi, the varna system had its virtues, but treating certain people as Untouchables was a corruption that now needed to be removed. This had to happen through the conversion or transformation of the ‘Savarna Hindus’, he said, who should voluntarily give up the practice of untouchability and thus rescue Hinduism.[9]

Such insights into the workings of the Indian society by such revolutionary figures had a major impact on people’s way of thinking. Their speeches and writings proliferated the idea that there was a distinct group of ‘Harijans’ or ‘Untouchables’ across India, and also tried to disseminate this vocabulary of ‘untouchability’ from the minds of pre-independence India.

The Southborough Franchise Committee which was led by Lord Lothian in 1932 was instructed by the Prime Minister to gauge the extent to which such depressed classes could secure the right to vote. One of the landmark suggestions given by this committee was to not include “primitive or aboriginal tribes, nor should it include those Hindus who are only economically poor and in other ways backward but are not regarded as untouchables”.

Recent Developments

The most recent amendment of 2018 to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 can be regarded as the most recent development of law in the legislative sphere, which has been enacted with the sole motive to prevent the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

A petition was filed (Dr. Subash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra[10]) challenging the constitutional validity of the same, where it was prayed that such law be struck down as the act was against the provisions enshrined in the constitution, namely Article 14, 19 and 21. The two-judge bench had in its march 20, 2018 verdict that there will be no automatic arrest on a complaint filed under the SC/ST Amendment Act 2018. The bench had also upheld the provision for anticipatory bail under the Act.

However, the 2018 judgement was overruled by a three-judge bench on October 1, 2019 in the case of Union of India v. State of Maharashtra & Ors[11], which restored the status quo regarding the provision of automatic arrest in cases of atrocities against SC and ST’s. It is important to note that the Centre had filed a review petition before the Supreme Court asking it to review its March 2018 order in view of the protests and communal tensions that the earlier judgement had attracted.

Quite recently only, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 in its judgement of February 10, 2020 in the case of Prithvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India & Ors[12] The judgement was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat. The bench had earlier reserved its judgement on the petitions challenging the validity of the SC/ST Amendment Act 2018. The apex court stated that pre-arrest bail should be granted only in appropriate circumstances, with a cautious exercise of power, where a denial of bail would result in miscarriage of justice.

Brief Overview of NCRB Report, 2019

The National Crime Records Bureau (also called NCRB) had released the annual Crime in India 2019 report, highlighting the various issues of criminal instances that have been reported all over India.

According to the report, a total of 45,935 cases were registered for committing crime against Scheduled Castes (SCs), showing an increase of 7.3% over 2018 (42,793 cases). Crime rate registered showed an increase from 21.2 in 2018 to 22.8 in 2019. Crime head-wise cases revealed that simple hurt with 28.9% (13,273 cases) formed the largest chunk of cases of crimes/atrocities against Scheduled Castes (SCs) during 2019. It was followed by cases under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act with 9.0% (4,129 cases) and cases under Rape with 7.6% (3,486 cases).[13]

It also showed that a total of 8,257 cases were registered for committing crime against Scheduled Tribes (STs), showing an increase of 26.5% over 2018 (6,528 cases). Crime rate registered increased from 6.3 in 2018 to 7.9 in 2019. Crime head-wise cases revealed that simple hurt (1,675 cases) formed the highest number of cases of crimes/atrocities against Scheduled Tribes (STs) accounting for 20.3% during 2019, it was followed by rape with 13.4% (1,110 cases) and assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty with 10.7% (880 cases).[14]

Misuse of Law

No law or legislation is immune to misuse or misappropriation by the perpetrators. A legislation, irrespective of its nature, is more likely than not prone to inherent flaws, which consequently gives birth to loopholes and ambiguity in its implementation. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is also susceptible to its own set of drawbacks and disadvantages. This has led to widespread misuse and has earned an image of an instrument of “blackmail” being used to exact vengeance and appease vested interests.

The Supreme Court, in its Subash Kashinath Mahajan judgement[15], had opined that SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act was being misused and a balance between the “need to check crimes against SCs and STs and need to provide innocent persons from abuse of process” was required to prevent such misuse. Certain guidelines were issued by the Court to prevent such misuse, which however, stand no ground as the same judgment was later overruled. But for the sake of argument, we shall go through these supposed incidents of misuse that the Act fails to consider: –

  • The court was convinced that a preliminary inquiry was to be done prior to FIR so as to avoid false implication of innocent under the Atrocities Act. Such preliminary inquiry was to be made by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) concerned prior to registration of an FIR to find out whether it comes within the ambit of Atrocities Act and was not frivolous or motivated by the wrong reasoning.
  • It was further directed that in such cases, no arrest without written permission from appropriate authority were to be made. Such permission was also required to record the reasons for the same., and the Magistrate must also apply his mind to see if such reasons are justified prior to taking further action.
  • Another major direction was issued wherein it was held that no absolute bar was to apply against grant of anticipatory bail in cases under Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide.
  • Inherent powers of courts were reiterated where such power could be used to quash criminal proceedings amounting to abuse of process, and the said power cannot be taken away by provisions of Atrocities Act.
  • Court can also issue direction to regulate power of arrest Balance must be maintained between social need to check crime and need to protect human right to liberty of an innocent person against arbitrary and mala fid, arrests.
  • Last but not least, the court provided interpretation of Atrocities Act, and the same should promote constitutional values of fraternity and integration of society, which may require check on false implications of innocent citizens on caste lines in the process.

Despite the above judgement getting overruled, a few consistent views have been taken by the Supreme Court. These are: –

  • If a prima facie case has not been made out attracting the provisions of the Atrocities Act, then in that case, the car created under Section 18 of the Act on the grant of anticipatory bail is not attracted. It is the duty of the court to decide whether an accused is entitled to bail under S. 438 CrPC in case no prima facie case is made out, or under S. 439 CrPC.
  • Furthermore, it was concurred that in case a person who is proceeded against under the Act apprehends false implication and harassment, he can approach High Court for quashing of the FIR under section 482 CrP.C.

Notable Comments by the Supreme Court

2018: Dr Subash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra[16]

As mentioned above, this judgement in 2018 was decided in response to a petition filed before the court where the amendment provisions of Atrocities Act were challenged. The court expressed its views in contravention to such provisions of the amendment act of 2018 and had issued various guidelines with regard to the issues of

  • preliminary inquiries prior to FIRs,
  • written permission prior to arrest made from appropriate authority,
  • no bar against grant of anticipatory bail was included,
  • inherent powers of the court were reiterated to quash criminal proceedings which amounted to abuse of process.

2019: Union of India v. state of Maharashtra & Ors[17]

In this overruling judgement, fresh guidelines were issued so as to achieve the purposes of the Act and meet the end of justice. Strict implementation of the 1989 Act was required to be followed by the courts. The issue of preliminary inquiry can only be done strictly as per the law laid down in Lalita Kumari case[18], in cases where it was required to be ascertained whether a cognizable offence had been committed or not.

However, a few consistent views were also held by both the benches on the issues relating to attracting the provisions of the 1989 Act if a prima facie case had not been made, and it was the duty to decide whether the accused is entitled to bail either under Ss. 438 or 439 accordingly.

Also, any person who apprehends false implication and harassment can approach High Court for quashing Fir in accordance with law. The judicial interference on presumption that a particular class/caste would lie and lodge false FIRs was held to be unwarranted as “there can be no presumption that SCs/STs as a class will misuse the 1989 Act and would lodge false reports.” Lastly, the bar to anticipatory bail under S.18 of the 1989 Act was held valid and not violative of the provisions of the Constitution.

2020: Prithvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India & Ors[19]

Upholding the view of the 2019 judgement, the three-judge bench of the apex court reiterated that, firstly, the grant of anticipatory bail under Section 438 CrP.C is barred in respect of offences under the Act, although being subject to the exception where prima facie case has not been made out. Bail can be granted in appropriate circumstances with a cautious exercise of power.

Secondly, Section 18-A has to be read in accordance with the law laid down in Lalita Kumari case, and thus enquiry before registration of FIR in respect of offences under the 1989 Act can only be upheld under the circumstances enumerated in Lalita Kumari.

Thirdly, quashing of proceedings under 1989 Act can be sought under exceptional circumstances and strictly in accordance with parameters laid down therefore, under S.482 CrPC, for preventing misuse of law. It was also held that the right to anticipatory bail can be taken away.

2020: Hitesh Verma v. State of Uttarakhand & Anr[20]

A very recent judgement of November 5, 2020 has dealt with the issue of intentional insult and intimidation with intent to humiliate of SC/ST in any place within public view. The basic ingredients of the offence were summarised by the Court as provided under section 3(1)(r) of the Act and can be classified as “(1) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled tribe and (2) in any place within public view.” The term “Place in public view” was distinguished from “public place” and was clarified that presence of members of the public inside a building or enclosed space could render such place a “place in public view” due to presence of members of the public.

The court reiterated, that an offence under the Act can only be made out if the other ingredients were satisfied, and it was committed only because of the caste/tribe of the victim. It was also held, that all insults or intimidations to person will not be an offence under the 1989 Act, unless such insult or intimidation is only on account of victim belonging to SC/ST.

Thus, offence under the 1989 Act would be made out, when member of vulnerable section of society is subjected to indignities, humiliations, and harassment, because of belonging to that vulnerable section of society.

Case laws

  • Rajendra Shrivastava v. State of Maharashtra[21]

Held: The object of the Act is to prevent commission of atrocities against the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

  • National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights v. Union of India[22]

Held: In this case, the scope of the act was weighed upon. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 enlarges scope of criminal liability of several acts or omissions not covered under IPC or Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955. The Act also provides protection to these communities against social disabilities, properties, malicious prosecution, political rights, and economic exploitation.

Minimum punishment of public servant neglecting to perform his duties under this Act has also been increased. Provisions for grant of minimum relief and compensation have been made to victims of atrocities and their heirs.

It was further held that, (i) externment of potential offenders from Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas; (ii) attachment of properties of accused under Act; (iii) prohibition of grant of anticipatory bail; (iv) making Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 inapplicable; (v) cancellation of arms licences of potential offenders; and (vi) grant of arms licence to members belonging to SC/ST community as means of self-defence also find place in scope of Act.

  • National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights v. Union of India[23]

Held: This case relates to the issue regarding grievance as to (a) ineffective implementation of Act and indifferent attitude of authorities in implementation of Act; and (b) failure to strictly comply with Rules 3, 8, 9, 10, 15(1), 16 and 17 of 1995 Rules.

Directions were issued to Central Government, State Governments, National Commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by the Court for effective implementation of Act and Rules. Also, the National Legal Services Authority was requested to formulate schemes to spread awareness and provide free legal aid to members of SC/ST communities.

  • Bhaiya Lal v. Harikishan Singh[24]

Held: The main contention of this case was the determination of whether a caste is included in Scheduled Caste or not. In order to determine whether or not a particular caste is a Scheduled Caste within the meaning of Article 341, one has to look at the public notification issued by the President in that behalf. In a later judgement of Parsram v. Shivchand[25] it was held that the caste (Chamar) mentioned in Part X of the Order if can be said to include a non-specified caste (Mochi).

  • Vidyadharan v. State of Kerala[26]

Held: The question whether if ‘Dohar’ were to be considered a sub-caste of Chamar or not. Section 3(1)(xi) of the Act which deals with assaults or use of force to any woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe with the intent to dishonour or outrage her modesty is an aggravated form of the offence under Section 354 IPC.

The only difference between Section 3(1)(xi) and Section 354 is essentially the caste or the tribe to which the victim belongs. If she belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, then section 3(1)(xi) shall apply. The other difference is that in Section 3(1)(xi), dishonour of such victim is also made an offence.

  • Punjab Rao v. D.P. Mesh Ram[27]

Held: The court was called upon to decide whether a person was professing either Hindu or Sikh religion. To answer this question, we must make a note of clause (3) of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 which contemplates that for a person to be treated as one belonging to a Scheduled Caste within the meaning of that Order, he must be one who professes either Hindu or Sikh religion.

A declaration of one’s belief must necessarily mean a declaration in such a way that it would be known to those whom it may interest. Therefore, if a public declaration is made by a person that he has ceased to belong to his old religion and has accepted another religion he will be taken as professing the other religion. In the face of such an open declaration it would be idle to enquire further as to whether the conversion to another religion was efficacious.

The word “profess” in the Presidential Order appears to have been used in the sense of an open declaration or practice by a person of the Hindu (or the Sikh) religion. Where, therefore, a person says, on the contrary that he has ceased to be a Hindu he cannot derive any benefit from that Order.

There would have been no need to make a mention of the Sikh religion. From the fact that a special mention is made of the Sikh religion it would follow that the word “Hindu” is used in the narrower sense of the orthodox Hindu religion which recognises castes and contains injunctions based on caste distinctions.

  • Ramesh L. Aneja v. State[28]

Held: The object of section 20, which gives overriding effect has been enacted to give more strength to the Act and not to deprive the victims of atrocities of the benefit of CrPC wherever such provisions are beneficial.

  • P. Surendran v. State[29]

Held: In this case, the issue has arisen when the High Court Registry’s refused to register anticipatory bail petitions in SC/ST atrocity matters. It was held that the act of numbering/registering a petition is purely administrative. Objections taken by High Court Registry on maintainability require judicial application of mind by utilising appropriate judicial standard. Moreover, Section 18-A of SC/ST Act itself indicates application of judicial mind.

  • Rahna Jalal v. State of Kerala[30]

Held: The issue of the bar on grant of anticipatory bail was taken up under sections 18 and 18-A of the 1989 Act, which have no application where prima facie case is not made out and iy was held that in such cases anticipatory bail can be granted.

  • Vilas Pandurang Pawar v. State of Maharashtra[31]

Held: In this case, the court went over the nature and scope of Section 18 of the SC/ST Act, which creates a bar for invoking Section 438 CrPC. However, a duty is cast on the court to verify the averments in the complaint and to find out whether an offence under Section 3(1) of the SC/ST Act has been prima facie made out.

In other words, if there is a specific averment in the complaint, namely, insult or intimidation with intent to humiliate by calling with caste name, the accused persons are not entitled to anticipatory bail. When an offence is registered against a person under the provisions of the SC/ST Act, no court shall entertain an application for anticipatory bail, unless it prima facie finds that such an offence is not made out.

  • State of Bihar v. Anil Kumar[32]

Held: The state Government’s discretionary power under Section 9 in relation to additional conferment of authority with respect to arrest, investigation and prosecution as to offences under SC/ST Act on any officer of State Government is irrespective of the provisions laid out under CrP.C or SC/ST Act.

  • State of M.P. v. Ram Kishna Balothia[33]

Held: The constitutional validity of Section 18 of the said Act was upheld in this case, as denying the application of provisions for anticipatory bail to those accused under that Act, cannot be considered as violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

  • Vidyadharan v. State of Kerala[34]

Held: Section 3(1)(xi) of the Act which deals with assaults or use of force to any woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe with the intent to dishonour or outrage her modesty is an aggravated form of the offence under Section 354 IPC.

The only difference between Section 3(1)(xi) and Section 354 is essentially the caste or the tribe to which the victim belongs. If she belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, Section 3(1)(xi) applies. The other difference is that in Section 3(1)(xi) dishonour of such victim is also made an offence.

  • Rattiram v. State of M.P.[35]

Held: Cognizance of offence under the 1989 Act was discussed by the Court. Conviction does not stand vitiated when cognizance was taken directly by Special Court (a Sessions Court) without commitment of case to it by Magistrate in accordance with Sections 209 and 193 CrP.C.

  • Ravinder Singh v. Sukhbir Singh[36]

Held: The court took note of the issue where the party had alleged the situation of ‘false or vexatious legal proceedings’ filed under the 1989 Act. The Court held that merely because a party is unable to prove a fact in a case, offence under this Act as to institution of false, vexatious, etc. legal proceedings against a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe cannot be categorized as false in each and every case.

Term “false” is distinct from the term “not proved”. For offence under this Act, as to institution of false, malicious, or vexatious legal proceedings against a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. The word “vexatious” means “harassment by the process of law”, “lacking justification” or with “intention to harass”.

It signifies an action not having sufficient grounds, and which, therefore, only seeks to annoy the adversary. The hallmark of a vexatious proceeding is that it has no basis in law (or at least no discernible basis); and that whatever the intention of the proceeding may be, its only effect is to subject the other party to inconvenience, harassment, and expense, which is so great, that it is disproportionate to any gain likely to accrue to the claimant; and that it involves an abuse of process of the court.

The Court also noted that such proceedings are different from those that involve ordinary and proper use of the process of the court.

Conclusion

Over the years, the changing trends in Indian social statuses have drawn a lot of attention. Be it the women’s movement or upliftment of minorities, every little struggle is being documented. On may even say that history is in making as we speak.

With regard to actual history at our hands, it has long been the bone of contention of the scholars that have argued that the Orientalist discourse and the British colonial powers have played a monumental role in contriving the concept of caste into the essence of Indian society. Caste, as we now know it, is supposed to be the product of the encounter that happened between colonial rule and Indian society.[37] In the same vein, some have also suggested that the category of the Untouchables is a construct of colonialism[38], which has been borrowed down to the Indian culture in a subconscious fashion.

From the above discussion, we can also see that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 has been somewhat successful in achieving its objective i.e., preventing the commission of offences of atrocities against the members of SC/ST communities.

However, it is imperative that checks and balances are put in place so to maintain a balance between social need to check crime and need to protect human right to liberty of an innocent person. As the legislation provides ample opportunity for misuse to happen, the courts must tread cautiously while deciding cases, and application of judicious mind must take prime importance so as to meet the ends of justice.

The problem of caste is one of the most complex issues that has plagued the Indian society for many generations now, and there seems to be no straightjacketed formula towards solving this tension. The way forward, in my opinion, should be the willingness of such communities to forgo the protective garb of such special status, and make an endeavour to discard the sentiment of victimisation of oneself where it is not necessary.

  1. Mohd. Hanif Quareshi v. State of Bihar, AIR 1958 SC 731; Das J. in State of W.B. v. Anwar Ali Sarkar, AIR 1952 SC 75; Javed v. State of Haryana, (2003) 8 SCC 369.
  2. Department of Social Security, The Report of the Advisory Committee on the Revision of the Lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 1965, at 7-9
  3. Jat Reservation Bill unanimously passed in Haryana Assembly
  4. Department of Social Security Report, supra note 5, at 5-6
  5. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Twenty-Eighth Report of the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment (2011-2012)
  6. Indian Franchise Committee, Report of the Indian Franchise Committee, Vol. 1, 1932 at 112-113.
  7. supra
  8. B.R. AMBEDKAR, Annihilation of Caste
  9. Article by M.K. Gandhi, Backward and Untouchable Classes (1929)
  10. Dr Subash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra, (2018) 6 SCC 454
  11. Union of India v. State of Maharashtra & Ors, (2020) 4 SCC 761
  12. Prithvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India & Ors, (2020) 4 SCC 727
  13. NCRB report on Crime in India, 2019 [2019 SNAPSHOTS (States/UTs)] at (xiii)
  14. NCRB report on Crime in India, 2019 supra
  15. supra
  16. supra
  17. supra
  18. (2014) 2 SCC 1
  19. supra
  20. Hitesh Verma v. State of Uttarakhand & Anr, (2020) 10 SCC 710 : (2021) 1 SCC (Cri) 1
  21. Rajendra Shrivastava v. State of Maharashtra, (2010) 2 Mah LJ 198 (FB)
  22. National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights v. Union of India, (2017) 2 SCC 432 : (2017) 1 SCC (Cri) 734
  23. supra
  24. Bhaiya Lal v. Harikishan Singh, (1965) 2 SCR 877 : AIR 1965 SC 1557
  25. Parsram v. Shivchand, (1969) 1 SCC 20.
  26. Vidyadharan v. State of Kerala, (2004) 1 SCC 215 : 2004 SCC (Cri) 260.
  27. Punjab Rao v. D.P. Mesh Ram, (1965) 1 SCR 849 : AIR 1965 SC 1179, 1184
  28. Ramesh L. Aneja v. State, (2005) 35 AIC 295 (Del)
  29. P. Surendran v. State, (2019) 9 SCC 154
  30. Rahna Jalal v. State of Kerala, (2021) 1 SCC 733
  31. Vilas Pandurang Pawar v. State of Maharashtra, (2012) 8 SCC 795 : (2012) 3 SCC (Cri) 1062
  32. State of Bihar v. Anil Kumar, (2017) 14 SCC 304 : (2017) 4 SCC (Cri) 849
  33. State of M.P. v. Ram Kishna Balothia, (1995) 3 SCC 221 : 1995 SCC (Cri) 439
  34. rattirdharan v. State of Kerala, supra
  35. Rattiram v. State of M.P., (2012) 4 SCC 516 : (2012) 2 SCC (Cri) 481
  36. Ravinder Singh v. Sukhbir Singh, (2013) 9 SCC 245
  37. DIRKS, Castes of Mind : Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Permanent Black, 2002)
  38. Oliver Mendelsohn and Marika Vicziany, The Untouchables : Subordination, Poverty and the State in Modern India, (Cambridge University Press, 1998)