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Supreme Court Affirms Metropolitan Magistrate’s Ruling: Insufficient Evidence for Public Caste-Based Abuse Claims Leads to Dismissal of FIR Application

Supreme Court Affirms Metropolitan Magistrate’s Ruling: Insufficient Evidence for Public Caste-Based Abuse Claims Leads to Dismissal of FIR Application 

Case Name: Priti Agarwalla And Others v. The State of GNCT Of Delhi And Others 

Case No.: Criminal Appeal No (S). 348  2021 

Dated: May 17, 2024 

Quorum:  Justice M M Sundresh and Justice S V N Bhatti 

 

FACTS OF THE CASE: 

An eager equestrian athlete can train at the Olympic Riding and Equestrian Academy, New Delhi, or simply “OREA.” The training institution in question is managed and administered by Mr. Kapil Nath Modi. The OREA trainee athletes were Appellant Nos. 2, 3, 6, and Respondent No. 2. The mother of appellant number two is appellant number one. Appellant No. 6’s parents are Appellant Nos. 4 and 5. 

June 2010 marked the Academy’s acceptance of Appellant No. 2 for equestrian training. 2009 marked the acceptance of Appellant No. 3 into OREA. It had been little more than two years since Appellant No. 6 began training at the Academy. A dedicated athlete who aspired to become the first dressage Olympic champion, respondent number two states that she has been training in equestrian sport at OREA since 2015. 

Since 1900, equestrian sports have been a part of the Olympic Games, having originated in the Greek Classics. Horse ballet is the colloquial name for the dressage sport. The judges are the riders and their equines depending on how they move, remain composed, flexible, and supple. One assesses the horse’s eagerness to do each step with the least amount of rider encouragement. Even for competitors who are not horseback riders, this activity exhibits the flawless synchronisation between the rider and the horse.  

The debate taken into consideration in this appeal is whether the athletes trained at OREA, who aimed to master the body and mind of a horse, have lost their composure, flexibility, and suppleness as a result of their training. The criminal appeal relates to the application dated 09.05.2018 filed under section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the complaint filed by Respondent No. 2 on 29.04.2018 before SHO P.S. Fatehpur Beri, South Delhi, under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (also known as “the Act of 1989”) against the Appellants herein.  

 ISSUE: 

  • Whether the order dated 09.07.2018 of the Metropolitan Magistrate conforms to the material on record and satisfies the mandate of section 156(3) of the CrPC? 
  • Whether the complaint(s) dated 29.04.2018/09.05.2018 make out a prima facie case of an offence under section 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the Act 1989? 
  • Whether the impugned order is valid, legal and tenable in the facts and circumstances of the case?  

LEGAL PROVISIONS: 

  • section 156(3) of the CrPC- Procedure for investigation. The officer in charge of a police station shall promptly report any suspicions he may have about the commission of an offence to a magistrate who is authorised to take cognizance of the offence upon receiving a police report. He may also designate one of his subordinate officers, who must not be lower in rank than that prescribed by the State Government by general or special order, to accompany him to the scene to investigate the facts and circumstances of the case and, if necessary, to take action for the offender’s discovery and apprehension. 

 CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANTS:  

The learned counsel for the appellant argued that the order that is the subject of the appeal did not fully consider the context of the dispute that existed prior to the filing of the application on May 9, 2018, or the complaint on April 29, 2018, with the Ld. Magistrate. Respondent No. 2 has been urged by the OREA administrator to lodge a complaint, despite the fact that no violations of the Act of 1989 have been observed throughout time.  

He contends that Respondent No. 2 and the trainee appellants received training at OREA, that nothing is said to have transpired for years, and that all came to light when the appellants filed complaints against the administrator on April 3, 2018, and April 11, 2018.  

The administrator has pursued or pressured Respondent No. 2 to begin prosecution by filing a complaint dated 29.04.2018 and the application dated 09.05.2018 under the Act of 1989 against the appellants. This is because the administrator was unable to obtain anticipatory bail, among other things, in the FIRs filed by the Appellants.  

These complaints are said to be motivated and untrue. By drawing our attention to the numerous complaints that the appellants have filed against the OREA administrator, an attempt has been made to demonstrate that Respondent No. 2 has been brought in without any grievances against the appellants.  

 CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS: 

The learned counsel of the respondents argued that the comment that promotes caste is criminal by the Indian Penal Code of 1860. The Act of 1989 was adopted by the Parliament because it became apparent that the marginalised groups in Indian society needed to be shielded from caste-based insults and acts of assistance in crimes against individuals and property.  

Respondent No. 2 is an individual and represents one of the millions of SC/ST persons in the nation who aspire to compete in the Olympics and win a gold medal in dressage. Respondent No. 2’s complaints, submitted through a complaint dated April 29, 2018, were ignored by the police. When section 156(3) of the CrPC was invoked, the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, via an order dated July 9, 2018, made it nearly impossible to prosecute an offence under the Act of 1989.  

He claims that Respondent No. 2’s theory of the countercase for the administrator’s reason, etc., is just another tactic used to refute the complaints. Ld. Counsel contends that in order to understand the offence that has been reported against the appellants in this case, this Court should take into account the complaints dated 29.04.2018 and 09.05.2018 as well as the pertinent documents.  

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT: 

The court observed that a few significant adjustments have been made to the legislative scheme under the Act of 1989 through Act No. 27 of 2018. It is important to recognise that Section 18A is one of the provisions that affects the Trial Court’s process. On August 20, 2018, Section 18A of the Act of 1989 became operative. As previously noted, the purported complaints in this instant appeal were made between April 29, 2018, and August 2, 2018, and they pertain to an allegation that was made two years earlier.  

Regarding the application submitted in accordance with section 156(3) of the CrPC, the court considers the discretion and jurisdiction of a magistrate. Is it necessary for the Magistrate to act upon a complaint that is brought before him and give instructions filing of a formal complaint (FIR) or, at his option, ordering a preliminary investigation after reviewing the charges. The answer to the query revolves around CrPC section 156(3).  

The court does not intend to provide numerous, concise citations on the subject. According to section 156(3) of the CrPC, the Magistrate poses a query: does the complaint as it is now presented provide evidence for directing the filing of a formal complaint or requesting information or a report from the police station with jurisdiction. The boundaries of this exercise’s inner and outside jurisdiction varies from case to case based on the type of complaint and of the charges and offence detailed in this kind of complaint. 

Taking everything into account, the Metropolitan Magistrate’s ruling is sound and unchallengeable given the facts of the case. As a result, the contested judgement is unsupportable and goes against the clause in section 4(2) of the Act of 1989 for the reasons and consideration mentioned above. As a result, the Criminal Appeal is granted and the contested judgement is overturned.  

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Judgment reviewed by Riddhi S Bhora 

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Caste-Based Reservations and Affirmative Action: A Legal Outlook

Abstract

Caste-based reservations and affirmative action policies have been pivotal in addressing historical social inequalities in countries like India. This article provides a legal overview of the topic, focusing on the Indian context as a case study. Examining the constitutional framework, landmark Supreme Court judgments, and ongoing debates, the article explores the delicate balance between rectifying historical injustices and promoting meritocracy. As reservations evolve to include economic criteria and confront intersectionality, the legal landscape continues to shape the contours of affirmative action, necessitating ongoing dialogue and nuanced perspectives.

Introduction:

Caste-based reservations and affirmative action policies have been the subject of significant legal discourse and societal debate in many countries, particularly in the context of addressing historical social inequalities. This brief legal article aims to provide an overview of the legal aspects surrounding caste-based reservations and affirmative action. Caste-based reservations and affirmative action are social policies aimed at addressing historical inequalities and promoting inclusivity. Particularly prominent in countries like India, these measures involve preferential treatment for historically marginalized communities. Rooted in constitutional frameworks, the legal aspects surrounding these policies play a crucial role in shaping social dynamics and opportunities. This brief explores the legal landscape and societal implications of caste-based reservations and affirmative action.

Legal Framework in India:

In India, the Constitution provides for affirmative action measures through various provisions, most notably Articles 15(4) and 16(4), which empower the state to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes. The concept of reservations was initially introduced to uplift the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) who had historically faced social discrimination.

Over time, the scope of reservations expanded to include Other Backward Classes (OBCs) as well, as per the recommendations of the Mandal Commission. However, the implementation of reservations has faced legal challenges, with arguments centred around issues of equality, meritocracy, and the perpetuation of caste-based identities[1].

Legal Challenges and Supreme Court Judgments:

The Indian judiciary has played a crucial role in shaping the contours of caste-based reservations. Several landmark judgments have addressed the constitutional validity of reservation policies. In the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India (1992), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of reservations but imposed a cap of 50%, emphasizing the need to balance the interests of the reserved and unreserved categories.

The ‘creamy layer’ concept, introduced through subsequent judgments, aimed to exclude economically advanced individuals within reserved categories from the benefits of reservations, addressing concerns related to perpetuating social and economic disparities. The Constitution does not lay down any specific bar but the constitutional philosophy being against proportional equality the principle of balancing equality ordains reservation, of any manner, not to exceed 50%.[2]

The Indian judiciary has significantly influenced the landscape of caste-based reservations through landmark judgments. In the pivotal case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India (1992), the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional validity of reservations while imposing a crucial limitation by capping it at 50%. This cap underscored the Court’s emphasis on striking a balance between the interests of reserved and unreserved categories.[3]

Subsequent judgments introduced the innovative ‘creamy layer’ concept, a mechanism designed to exclude economically affluent individuals within reserved categories from reservation benefits. This concept directly addresses concerns about perpetuating social and economic disparities within these communities. As a result, the judiciary has played a key role in refining reservation policies, ensuring they align with constitutional principles and promote a more equitable distribution of opportunities.

Ongoing Debates and Emerging Challenges:

While caste-based reservations have undoubtedly contributed to social upliftment, ongoing debates focus on the need for a more nuanced and dynamic approach. Critics argue that a static reservation system may perpetuate caste identities and hinder merit-based selection processes. Proponents, on the other hand, emphasize the historical injustices faced by certain communities and the continuing need for affirmative action.

The emergence of new challenges, such as intersectionality and the inclusion of economically backward sections, adds complexity to the debate. Striking a balance between rectifying historical injustices and promoting a meritocratic society remains a persistent challenge for policymakers and the judiciary. In the realm of caste-based reservations, the undeniable positive impact on social upliftment is countered by ongoing debates calling for a more nuanced and dynamic approach. Critics argue that a static reservation system risk perpetuating caste identities and potentially hindering merit-based selection processes. On the opposing side, proponents underscore the historical injustices faced by specific communities, asserting the ongoing necessity for affirmative action.

Adding complexity to the discourse are emerging challenges, such as the consideration of intersectionality and the inclusion of economically backward sections within the reservation framework. Achieving a delicate equilibrium between rectifying historical injustices and fostering a meritocratic society stands as a persistent challenge for both policymakers and the judiciary. As the dialogue unfolds, the need for a comprehensive and adaptable approach to affirmative action becomes increasingly apparent in navigating these intricate issues.

Conclusion:

Caste-based reservations and affirmative action are complex issues with far-reaching legal implications. While the legal framework in India acknowledges the need for affirmative measures, ongoing debates and legal challenges underscore the evolving nature of this issue. Achieving a delicate balance between social justice and meritocracy requires continual dialogue and a nuanced understanding of the diverse factors at play. Caste-based reservations and affirmative action, critical for addressing historical inequalities, pose complex challenges with profound legal implications. In India, the legal framework recognizes the imperative for affirmative measures, yet ongoing debates and legal challenges highlight the dynamic nature of this issue. Caste only cannot be the basis for reservation.[4]

Striking a delicate balance between social justice and meritocracy demands sustained dialogue and a nuanced understanding of diverse factors. Navigating this evolving landscape necessitates ongoing legal and societal discourse to ensure effective, fair, and adaptive policies.

PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal falls into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.”

Written By: Gauri Joshi

[1] SCC Online

[2] Indian Kanoon- Indra Sawhney Etc. Etc vs Union Of India And Others

[3] Indian Express

[4] Case Mine

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Caste will have no role in appointment of temple priests, rules Madras High Court.

Case Title: Muthu Subramania Gurukkal   … Petitioner 
                            

                                Versus

The Commissioner,Hindu Religious and CharitableEndowment Department and  Anrs                                                              … Respondents

Date of Decision:   Reserved on :21.6.2023
                               Delivered on :26.6.2023 

Coram: The Honourable Mr.Justice N.ANAND VENKATESH 

Citation: WPNo.3997 of 2018 & WMP.Nos.4916 and 4948 of 2018 & 12136 of 2022.

Introduction:

Caste will have no role to play in the appointment of priests in temples, ruled Madras High Court on Monday. The HC also allowed trustees to appoint any person well-versed and qualified to perform the ‘pooja’ as per the requirement of temple rituals. The court gave the order while hearing a plea by Muthu Subramania Gurukkal against an advertisement issued by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) department. The advertisement called for applications for the positions of Archakas/Sthanikam of Sri Sugavaneswarar Swamy Temple in Salem.

Facts:
The petitioner hails from the family of Sivachariyars and their family has been performing the poojas from time immemorial and the position of Sthanikam was occupied as a hereditary right. Accordingly, after his grandfather, the petitioner took over the position as Sthanikam and was performing the poojas. The customs and usages were the basis for occupying the

position as Sthanikam and every time when there is a change in the Sthanikam, a letter of intimation used to be give to the Authorities, who also granted approval subsequently.

The grievance of the petitioner is that respondents 2 and 3, all of a sudden, issued the impugned advertisement calling for applications for appointment to the position of Archakas/Sthanikam of the subject temple and that the impugned advertisement infringes
upon the hereditary right of the petitioner and others, who are rendering their services as per the customs and usage in the line of succession from time immemorial. Accordingly, the impugned advertisement has been put to challenge in the above writ petition.

Issues:

  • Whether the appointment of a priest is by itself a secular function or a religious practice?
  • Whether appointment of an archaka is governed by the usage and hereditary succession is a religious usage?

Legal Analysis:

The Madras High Court on Monday made it clear that caste has no role to play in the appointment of archakas (temple priests) to temples in Tamil Nadu. The only qualification for being appointed as an archaka is being well-versed in the Agama principles applicable to the concerned temple, and the person selected has the required knowledge and is properly trained and qualified to perform pujas. 

“It is made abundantly clear that the pedigree based on caste will have no role to play in the appointment of Archaka if the person so selected otherwise satisfies the requirements,” Justice N. Anand Venkatesh ruled on Monday disposing a writ petition. The petition was filed by Muthu Subramania Gurukal in 2018 challenging a notification issued by the Executive Officer (EO) of Sri Sugavaneswarar Swamy Temple in Salem. He also said the notification infringes upon his hereditary rights to hold the position of ‘Sthanigam’, as he was serving in the temple as per customs and practices in line of succession. The petition also insisted that every priest appointment in temples have to be made according to the Agama principles followed by the temple.

Dismissing the petition challenging the powers of the EOs to appoint the archakas or priests, Justice Anand Venkatesh said, “It is always left open to the trustees to appoint Archakas/Sthanikam in Agamic temples by ensuring the Archakas/Sthanikam are well-versed, properly trained and qualified to perform the pujas as per the requirements under the agama.” The court also instructed the EO to issue a fresh advertisement for appointing the archakas/sthanigam and asked the petitioner to participate in the due selection process. 

Citing a Supreme Court judgement which held “the appointment of a temple priest is a secular function and hence there is no question of claiming a hereditary right. The archaka is expected to be well-versed in gamines and necessary rituals,” Justice Anand Venkatesh observed. He added that any person belonging to any caste or creed can be appointed as an archaka provided he is well-versed in Agama principles. 

The judgment comes two years after the DMK government appointed 24 trained non-brahmin priests to various temples governed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) department in Tamil Nadu. The DMK government, within a month after it took over in May 2021, revived the priest training schools and went ahead appointing archakas belonging to all castes.

Judgement:

Justice N Anand Venkatesh said that the only requirement for one to be appointed as archagars (priests) of temples in Tamil Nadu should be that one is well versed in the Agamic (temple traditions) principles of the concerned temple and that one was adequately trained to perform temple rituals.

The High Court made the observation while disposing of a writ petition filed in 2018. The plea challenged a notification issued by the Executive Officer (EO) of the Sri Sugavaneswarar Swamy Temple in Salem district of Tamil Nadu, calling for applications to fill up the post of Archagar or Sthanigar (temple priests).

The petitioner had insisted that priests should inherit the position. He had told the Court that the notification infringed upon his hereditary rights to hold the position of a priest as he had been serving in the temple as per customs and usages in the line of succession for years.

 The writ petition is disposed of with a direction to the third respondent to issue an advertisement in line with the observations made supra and the Archakas/Sthanikam shall be appointed for Sri Sugavaneswarar Swamy Temple, Salem. The petitioner shall be permitted to perform the poojas till the appointment of the Archakas/Sthanikam. It is also left open to the petitioner to participate in the selection.

Conclusion:

Caste will have no role to play in the appointment of priests in temples, ruled Madras High Court on Monday. The HC also allowed trustees to appoint any person well-versed and qualified to perform the ‘pooja’ as per the requirement of temple rituals. The High Court allowed the petitioner to participate in the selection process but said that persons belonging to any caste can become temple priests.

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