The Supreme Court has ruled that using casteist remarks over phone in a public place against the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe category amounts to criminal offence warranting a jail term of a maximum five years.
The apex court refused to stay the criminal proceedings and quash an FIR lodged against a person, who used expletive and derogatory casteist remarks over phone to a woman belonging to the SC/ST category.
A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer declined to interfere with the August 17 order of the Allahabad High Court which had rejected a plea of a Uttar Pradesh native, seeking quashing of the FIR lodged against him by the woman.
It dismissed his plea saying he has to prove during the trial that he had not talked to the woman over phone from a public place.
Advocate Vivek Vishnoi, appearing for the accused, said that at the time of conversation both then woman and his client were in different cities and it could not be stated that it was in public view.
He said that section 3(1)(s) of SC/ST Act relates to a person, who abuses any member of a SC or ST by caste name in any place "within public view".
"In this case, both persons were in different cities and the conversation took over phone which can't be said to be in a public view. This was a private conversation. The apex court had already settled what 'public view' means in its earlier verdict of 2008," he said.
Vishnoi said the issue involved in the petition was that whether a private conversation on mobile phone between two individuals can come within the ambit of expression "within public view".
He said that by no stretch of imagination, a private conversation between two indviduals on mobile phone can come within the ambit of expression "within public view" and that the charges framed against the petitioner need to be quashed.
The lawyer further said that the complainant has made some vague allegations regarding land sale transactions but no specific averments were made which may prima facie show that the offences of cheating and intimidation were made out.
The bench, however, refused to agree with the contention and said it was only in trial that the accused could prove if he was talking on phone in public view or not.
The high court had on August 17 dismissed his plea for quashing of FIR and stay of criminal proceedings against him saying it was not advisable to adjudge whether the case shall ultimately end in conviction or not.
"Only a prima facie satisfaction of the court about the existence of sufficient ground to proceed in the matter is required," the high court had said while relying on various apex court verdicts.
The high court had also said that it cannot be persuaded to have a pre-trial before the actual trial begins and the perusal of FIR and material collected by the police on the basis of which the charge sheet was filed "makes out a prima facie case against the accused at this stage and there appear to be sufficient ground" for proceeding against him.