Caste that is difficult to cast away:” Supreme Court rules on scope of Section 3(2)(v) of SC/ST Act; intersectional gender violence
The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a conviction under Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, as it stood before the 2015 amendment, can be upheld if caste identity is one of the grounds for the incidence of the offence (Patan Jamal Vali v. State of Andhra Pradesh). A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah ruled that denying the defence of Section 3(2)(v) on the grounds that the crime was not committed solely on the basis of caste origin is to deny how social inequalities act in a cumulative manner. Since the law uses the terms "on the field," the presence of "the" before "ground" does not always imply that the offence should have been committed solely on that ground. To read the clause in that way would dilute a constitutional provision intended to protect Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from acts of violence that threaten their integrity, according to the ruling. The Court explained that a causal relation between the harm suffered and the ground must be identified.
Section 3(2)(v) states that a person who is not a member of the SC/ST community commits an offence under the Indian Penal Code punishable by imprisonment for a term of ten years or more against a person or property on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member, shall be punished with life imprisonment and wit. The appellant was found guilty of violating Section 3(2)(v) of the SC&ST Act and Section 376(1) of the Penal Code, and was sentenced to life in prison for both offences by the Sessions Judge. The verdict and sentencing were upheld by the High Court, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court. The apex court pointed out that interpreting the clause to mean that the offence should have been committed “only” because the victim was a member of the SC/ST group would weaken the provision. The Court, on the other hand, did not refer the above two decisions to a wider Bench because it determined that the prosecution in this case had not presented sufficient proof to prove the elements of section 3(2)(v).
When a woman's identity collides with her caste, class, faith, disability, and sexual orientation, she can be subjected to violence and prejudice on two or more grounds. Because of their heterodox gender identity, Trans-women may face abuse. In such a case, an intersectional lens must be used to assess how various sources of inequality interact to create a particular experience of subordination for a blind Scheduled Caste individual, according to the Court. The drawback of Section 3(2)(v), according to the Court, is that it is difficult to determine what contributed to the commission of the crime because the victim's persecution is intersectional in nature. The Court observed in this case that the accused may have been conscious of the victim's caste. “However, in light of the terminology of Section 3(2)(v) as it stood at the time when the offence in this case was committed, information alone cannot be said to be the cause of the commission of the offence. Because of the intersectional nature of discrimination that PW2 faces, determining what contributed to the commission of the offence – whether it was her caste, gender, or impairment – is challenging.