On Monday, the Supreme Court reiterated that Section 3(2)(v) of SC/ST would not be attracted automatically just because a victim belongs to such and such category, and the prosecution has to establish ingredients of Section 3(2)(v) are made out.
As Section 3(2)(v) states that whoever, not being a member of the SC/ST tribe, commits an offence under the Indian Penal Code, which is punishable with imprisonment for ten years, because that person belongs to SC/ST tribe or if the property belongs to such member, will be punishable with life imprisonment and a fine.
The petitioner was tried for offences punishable u/s 376(1) of IPC and u/s 3(2)(v) of SC/ST Act for raping a girl(20) who is blind since birth and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The accused filed an appeal in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. However, the Court dismissed his appeal.
When the case reached the top Court, the Bench took note of its judgment where life imprisonment awarded to a murder convict was reduced to the sentence already undergone. There is not enough evidence to suggest that the crime was committed just because the victim belonged to SC/ST group.
At the outset, Hon’ble Justice Chandrachud remarked that the Bench will confirm the conviction but will modify the sentence as Section 3(2)(v) was not established; therefore, the convict was entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
Hon’ble Justice Shah stated that it must be alleged in the FIR that the victim belonged to SC/ST caste, which is why rape was committed. Only then Section 3(2)(v) can be attracted, and it cannot be attracted just because the victim belonged to that particular caste.
Lastly, the Court remarked that even though life imprisonment was permissible, the Court can’t confine the sentence to ten years in this particular case. The Court further remarked it was not the case that the convict saw the girl and raped her, but he carefully asked about her from her mother and then raped her.
Now the Bench will take up the case on Friday.