The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that making caste-based remarks during a phone call is not an offence under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, PTI reported on Sunday. The bench reasoned that since the remarks were not committed within “the public view”, it cannot be assumed that those were meant to humiliate the complainant.

Justice Harnaresh Singh Gill made the observations while quashing a first information report against two residents of Kurukshetra in Haryana. The accused had allegedly made casteist comments against the village head over a phone call in 2017. Charges were framed against the duo by a trial court in May 2019. The accused then moved the High Court.

“Merely uttering such wrong words in the absence of any public view does not show any intention or means to humiliate the complainant who besides being sarpanch, belongs to Scheduled Caste community,” the bench said. “It would not, thus, ipso-facto, constitute acts of the commission of an offence, which are capable of being taken cognizance under the SC and ST Act, 1989.”

Justice Gill said it must be alleged that the accused intentionally insulted a member of the community in public place for it to be considered an offence under the Act. “Once it is admitted that the alleged conversation over the mobile phone was not in a public gaze nor witnessed by any third party, the alleged use of caste words cannot be said to have been committed within the public view,” the verdict read.