Calling SCs ‘Harijans’ Is Outright Abusive, Rules SC Bench

New Delhi: Gandhi used to call the people of Scheduled Castes Harijans, but the subsequent identity movements defined them as Dalits. And Dalits it should be and not Harijans, ruled the highest court of the land.

“We as citizens of this country should always keep one thing in our mind and heart that no people or community should be insulted and looked down upon , and nobody’s feelings should be hurt,” the Supreme Court said on Friday in landmark judgment.

Quashing the order granting an anticipatory bail to the accused Omkarjit Singh Ahluwalia and two others who insulted a Scheduled Caste woman, a bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Ashok Bhushan said,”

The use of the words ‘Harijan’, ‘dhobi’ etc is often done by people belonging to the so-called upper castes as words of insult, abuse and derision.”

The bench categorically observed that calling any person with these names is considered nowadays as abusive language and offensive. It is said not to denote a caste but with the intention of insulting and humiliating someone.

The bench of the apex court has reminded the citizens that the Constitution of India abolished “untouchability”. It exhorted citizens that they should respect the feelings of the people of Scheduled Castes. In view of the social attitudes which lead to commission of such offences against the SCs and STs, there is every likelihood of them misusing their liberty while on anticipatory bail to terrorise their victims and to prevent a proper investigation.

Justice Agrawal, in his judgment, said such offences are committed to humiliate and subjugate members of SCs and STs with a view to keeping them in servitude.

Caste slurs constitute separate class of offence and they don’t come under IPC. The court noted that section 18 of the SCs & STs ( Prevention of Atrocities) Act, creates a bar on granting anticipatory bail and Patna High Court had committed a grave error in granting anticipatory bail to the respondents.

The appellant in this case was aggrieved over granting of anticipatory bail to the accused who tried to outrage her modesty. When the complainant resisted their act, the respondents forcefully pushed her on the floor and started abusing her with filthy language saying ” you Harijan, Dhoban, you survive on our leftovers …..”

The respondents threatened her not to tell anybody about the incident. An FIR was registered on her complaint and the accused were granted anticipatory bail after trial court has taken notice of the complaint. The bench of the the SC has given its ruling against this order of Patna High Court. The court has cancelled the anticipatory bail asking the accused to surrender and seek regular bail.

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