The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that all insults or intimidations to people belonging to Dalit or tribal communities will not be an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, reported The Hindu.

An offence will be considered under the law only if the insults or intimidations were intended to humiliate a member of the community, targeting their caste or tribe. Or, if it is done in a place “within public view”.

The bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi were hearing a plea challenging a Uttarakhand High Court order. The court had rejected a petition by Hitesh Verma, seeking to quash a chargesheet and summoning order against him for an offence under the Act. Verma had allegedly abused a Dalit woman in her house in December.

“In the present case, the parties are litigating over possession of the land,” the court said, according to Bar and Bench. “The allegation of hurling of abuses is against a person who claims title over the property. If such person happens to be a Scheduled Caste, the offence under Section 3(1)(r) of the Act is not made out.”

The Supreme Court said that a property dispute between a person from the SC/ST community and an upper caste person will not reveal an offence under the Act unless the accusations are made as the victim belonged to the community. The top court noted that the aim of the Act was to punish the actions of those belonging to the upper caste.

The bench also relied on the 2008 verdict and said the court had differentiated between a “public place” and “in any place within public view”, reported PTI. If the offence was committed outside a building, and can be seen by someone from the road or lane outside the boundary wall then that would be considered within public view.