VETRIVEL vs STATE REPRESENTED BY ITS DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE
VETRIVEL vs STATE REPRESENTED BY ITS DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE - Supreme Court Judgment 2022 -
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 106 OF 2022
(Arising out of SLP (Criminal) No. 8082 of 2021)
VETRIVEL ..… APPELLANT
STATE REPRESENTED BY ITS DEPUTY
SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE & ANR. ..... RESPONDENTS
J U D G M E N T
ABHAY S. OKA, J.
1. The appellant was convicted by the learned Judge of the Special
Court constituted under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (for short “the Atrocities Act”). The
appellant was convicted by the Special Court for the offences punishable
under Sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the Atrocities Act, as well as for the
offence punishable under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (for
short “IPC”). For the first two offences, the appellant was sentenced to
undergo rigorous imprisonment for 3 years. He was sentenced to pay
fine of Rs.1,000/- (Rupees One Thousand only). In default, he was
sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 9 months. For the third
offence, he was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 1 one
year and was also sentenced to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/- (Rupees One
Thousand only). In default of payment of the fine, he was sentenced to
undergo rigorous imprisonment for 3 months.
2. In an appeal preferred by the appellant, the order of conviction of
the appellant for all of the three offences was confirmed. In Revision, by
the impugned Judgment, the conviction was confirmed by the High
Court. However, the substantive sentence imposed by the Special Court
was reduced to two years. Notice was issued by this Court in the present
appeal limited to the quantum of sentence.
3. The prosecution case in brief is that the added Respondent (the de
facto complainant) along with her husband is running a tailoring shop.
They have taken the said shop on a rental basis from one Chinnathambi,
the owner of the shop. The present appellant is a relative of the said
owner of the shop. The appellant is the brother of one Mekala. Their
father is the brother of the owner of the shop. A quarrel ensued between
the said Mekala and children of the de facto complainant. When the de
facto complainant questioned Mekala, the appellant supported Mekala.
As a result of the said quarrel, the appellant started insisting on the de
facto complainant vacating the tailoring shop.
4. The alleged incident is of 30th August 2014. According to the
prosecution, the incident took place in front of the tailoring shop
occupied by the de facto complainant. The allegation is that the
appellant who is not a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled
tribe, abused and intimidated the de facto complainant who is a member
of the scheduled caste. According to the prosecution case, the appellant
used certain obscene words about the de facto complainant in front of
the shop in her possession. Moreover, it is alleged that the appellant
insulted the de facto complainant by mentioning her caste. It is alleged
that the appellant caught hold of the de facto complainant and pulled her
by holding her hair. The allegation is that the appellant also caused injury
on the cheeks of the de facto complainant.
5. Shri S. Nagamuthu, the learned Senior Counsel appearing for the
appellant submitted that assuming that the prosecution case is true, the
incident complained of arose out of a dispute pertaining to the shop held
by the de facto complainant. He submitted that even going by the
prosecution case, only because the appellant insisted on the de facto
complainant vacating the shop premises, a false complaint has been
filed. He submitted that as per the Surrender Certificate on record, as of
23rd September 2021, the appellant had undergone sentence for 5
months and 25 days. Hence, as of now, the appellant has undergone
sentence for more than 9 months. His submission is that this is a fit
case where this Court should let off the appellant on the sentence which
is already undergone.
6. Dr. Joseph Aristotle, the learned Standing Counsel representing
the State of Tamil Nadu urged that the incident has occurred in a public
place and the appellant is guilty of a very objectionable conduct of
pulling the de facto complainant by holding her hair. He has also
submitted that the High Court has already shown leniency by bringing
down the substantive sentence to 2 years. He would, therefore, urge that
no indulgence be shown by this Court.
7. We have given careful consideration to the submissions. In the
impugned Judgment and order and in particular in paragraphs 5 and 7, it
is noted that there was a quarrel between the children of the de facto
complainant and the said Mekala. At that time, the appellant came to the
rescue of Mekala. The allegation is that the appellant and his family
members were insisting that the de facto complainant should vacate the
shop in her possession. The reason for the incident appears to be the
dispute over the said shop.
8. For the offences punishable under Section 3(1)(r) and Section 3(1)
(s) of the Atrocities Act, the minimum sentence is of 6 months which may
extend to 5 years and fine. A perusal of the judgment of the learned
Special Judge shows that he has proceeded on the footing that
considering the age of the appellant and other circumstances, minimum
sentence should be imposed. Nevertheless, he has not given any
reasons for inflicting punishment of rigorous Imprisonment of 3 years.
The High Court has not given reasons for fixing the quantum of sentence
at 2 years.
9. Even according to the prosecution case, before the incident, there
was a quarrel involving the children of the de facto complainant and the
said Mekala. Moreover, the quarrel led to the demand for the surrender
of the shop premises by the appellant on behalf of the owner of the
premises. A perusal of the judgment of the learned Special Judge will
show that the de facto complainant did not sustain any serious injury. In
fact, she was taken to the hospital and was examined by a doctor
(PW8). Though it is stated by PW8 that the de facto complainant was
admitted to the hospital, PW8 has clearly stated that she did not suffer
any injury. When the alleged offence was committed, the age of the
appellant was 25 years. Criminal antecedents of the appellant have not
been brought on record. Considering these facts and the fact that the
appellant has already undergone a sentence for more than 9 months,
this is a fit case where the substantive sentence should be reduced to
rigorous imprisonment for 1 year. However, the appellant will have to
pay total fine amount of Rs.25,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Thousand) for
the three offences which will be payable within six weeks from today. On
default of the payment of fine, the appellant will have to undergo
rigorous imprisonment for a period of 3 months. To the above extent, the
impugned Judgment and order needs modification.
10. The appeal is partly allowed. The substantive sentence imposed
on the appellant is brought down to rigorous imprisonment for 1 year.
The appellant shall pay a fine amount of Rs.25,000/- (Rupees Twenty
Five Thousand) within a period of six weeks from today. In default of
payment of fine, the appellant shall undergo rigorous Imprisonment for 3
months. The fine amount shall be paid to the added respondent.
11. All the pending applications, if any, are disposed of.
(ABHAY S. OKA)
January 19, 2022.
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