New Delhi, The Hush Post: A casteist remark against a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe category at a public place is a criminal offence entailing imprisonment for maximum five years, the Supreme Court has ruled. A bench of Justice Chelameswar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer refused to stay criminal proceedings and to quash an FIR against a person who allegedly used derogatory casteist remarks over phone to a woman belonging to the SC/ST category. The court said the accused needs to prove that he did not speak over the phone from a public place and the petition is only about whether the telephonic conversation took place in public or not.Appearing for the accused, advocate Vivek Vishnoi contended that at the time of the conversation his client, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, and the woman were in two different cities, so their conversation could not be considered public. He said that Section 3(1) of the SC/ST Act was applicable only on a person who abuses a member of the SC/ ST category by caste name in a place ‘within public view’. He argued that the issue involved in the petition was whether a private conversation on mobile phone between two persons can come within the expression “within public view”. He said the complainant woman had levelled false charges against his client in a land deal case.
The apex court declined to interfere with the August 17 order of the Allahabad High Court which had rejected the accused’s plea for quashing of FIR and stay of criminal proceedings against him. The court had said it was not advisable to ajudge whether the case shall end in conviction or not. The High Court had also said that a pre-trial before the actual trial begins was not needed as only prima facie satisfaction of the court in the matter was required.