Section 3(2)(v) of SC/ST Act Will Attract As Long As Caste Identity Is One Of The Grounds For The Occurrence Of Offence

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Case: Patan Jamal Vali vs. State of Andhra Pradesh

Coram: Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah

Case No: [CrA 452 of 2021]

Court Observation: “The correctness of this exposition is debatable. The statutory provision does not utilize the expression “only on the ground”. Reading the expression “only” would be to add a restriction which is not found in the statute. The statute undoubtedly uses the words “on the ground’ but the juxtaposition of “the” before “ground” does not invariably mean that the offence ought to have been committed only on that ground. To read the provision in that manner will dilute a statutory provision which is meant to safeguard the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes against acts of violence which pose a threat to their dignity.

As we have emphasized before in the judgment, an intersectional lens enables us to view oppression as a sum of disadvantage resulting from multiple marginalized identities. To deny the protection of Section 3 (2) (v) on the premise that the crime was not committed against an SC & ST person solely on the ground of their caste identity is to deny how social inequalities function in a cumulative fashion.

It is to render the experiences of the most marginalized invisible. It is to grant impunity to perpetrators who on account of their privileged social status feel entitled to commit atrocities against socially and economically vulnerable communities. This is not to say that there is no requirement to establish a causal link between the harm suffered and the ground, but it is to recognize that how a person was treated or impacted was a result of interaction of multiple grounds or identities. A true reading of Section 3(2)(v) would entail that conviction under this provision can be sustained as long as caste identity is one of the grounds for the occurrence of the offence. In the view which we ultimately take, a reference of these decisions to a larger bench in this case is unnecessary. We keep that open and the debate alive for a later date and case.”,

“This has decreased the threshold of proving that a crime was committed on the basis of the caste identity to a threshold where mere knowledge is sufficient to sustain a conviction. Section 8 which deals with presumptions as to offences was also amended to include clause (c) to provide that if the accused was acquainted with the victim or his family, the court shall presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim unless proved otherwise”


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