The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has set aside the criminal proceedings against the owner of a school under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, observing that a person can be subjected to trial under the Act only if the utterances are made at a “place within a public view”.

Passing the order on an educationist’s plea challenging criminal proceedings against him for allegedly hurling casteist abuse at a student’s father, Justice Shamim Ahmed observed: “The verbal abuse by utterance of caste name of a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe would not be an offence under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act) if such incident takes place within a house where no outsider is present.”

The court said that a person can be subjected to trial for the offence under Section 3(1)(s) of the SC/ST Act, only if utterances by him were made in any “place within a public view”.

The court made the observations while quashing a case against a school owner who was accused by a parent of failing his son and other students in Class 12 examination.

The complainant alleged that the accused and his associates offered Rs 5 lakh to him to withdraw the protest. He claimed that the accused also abused him by uttering the name of his caste.

The bench, however, said that the accused had not abused the complainant in public view and noted that the complainant had not stated anything about the nature of the abuse.

“An offence under the Act, 1989 would be made out when a member of the vulnerable section of the society is subjected to indignities, humiliations and harassment in any place within the public view,” the court said, considering several judgments passed in similar cases by the Supreme Court.

It also found that independent witnesses had not supported the case of the complainant and were not even present in the house when the alleged incident took place.

“It is further observed that as per his own case, the respondent No. 3 (complainant) clearly stated in the FIR and in his statement recorded under Section 161 CrPC that whatever incident took place that took place inside his house, thus, it is not a place within a public view as no outsider was sitting in the room nor anyone has seen the alleged incident,” the court said.

The court observed that the result and examination of students was the sole responsibility of the CBSE and the accused (the school owner) had nothing to do with the process.

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