The Kerala High Court has held that making a derogatory remark against a person belonging a scheduled caste or tribe in their courtyard would amount to “an insult in a place in public view”, punishable under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (Vishak and Anr. v. State of Kerala and Ors.).
The Court through Justice PB Suresh Kumar held thus while disposing of a bail plea moved by two men accused of assault, making a casteist slur, and molesting a woman in her courtyard. The woman belongs to a Scheduled Caste.
In their appeal to the High Court, the accused averred that:
- The charges were not borne out by the facts and that they did not molest the woman, and,
- The alleged slur, being made in the courtyard of a house, was not “within public view” as required for an offence under the Scheduled caste / ST Act.
For the second contention, the Counsel for the Scheduled caste accused relied on a ruling by the Apex Court, which illustrated what constituted a place in public view (Swaran Singh v. State of Punjab).
The Supreme Court had held,
“… the gate of a house is certainly a place within public view. It could have been a different matter had the alleged offence been committed inside a building, and also was not in the public view. However, if the offence is committed outside the building e.g. in a lawn outside a house, and the lawn can be seen by someone from the road or lane outside the boundary wall, the lawn would certainly be a place within the public view. Also, even if the remark is made inside a building, but some members of the public are there (not merely relatives or friends) then also it would be an offence since it is in the public view… “
Because the place of incident was the courtyard of the complainant’s house, it could not be contended that it was not a place in public view, Justice Kumar reasoned.
“True, the Apex court took the view in the said case that the court has to see the place of occurrence to ascertain whether the place is within public view… In so far as the place of occurrence is the courtyard of the house of the defacto complainant, according to me, it cannot be contended prima facie that it is not a place within public view.”
Justice PB Suresh Kumar held
Stating thus, the appeal was dismissed, with a clarification that the applicants were free to seek regular bail if they so desired.